Luke McCaffrey is more than Christian McCaffrey’s younger brother

There’s something in the water when it comes to the McCaffrey family and playing football. Christian McCaffrey is the best running back in football, a player who turned pre-draft doubt into ludicrous production as an all-purpose running back — now his younger brother Luke is entering the NFL Draft to much less fanfare, but remains a fascinating mid-round pick.

Luke McCaffrey, who played wide receiver at Rice, is expected to be a Day 3 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. A former quarterback, McCaffrey made the switch to wide receiver in 2022 and has shown ludicrous growth at the position over a short period of time. There might not be a wealth of film to project him to the next level, but there are elements to his game which are fascinating.

Work ethic and motor

Luke is a guy who just loves playing football. There’s no pretense or ego to his game. His switch to receiver from quarterback was simply an opportunity to get more reps and see the field more, and for the most part he thrived.

If you’re looking for one trait to hang your hat on, it’s this: McCaffrey knows he’s expected to make an impact. In the NFL this projects mostly to slot receiver, where he can be a decent size mismatch against nickel defensive backs. McCaffrey is able to pair his 6’2, 198-pound frame with NFL-caliber body positioning and hands, which makes up for his lack of burst. This is not a guy who will burn anyone on a slant, but he excels at weaving through coverage on extended plays and find ways to get open.

This kind of high-effort play translates in the NFL. It’s foolish to pronounce McCaffrey as the next Puka Nacua, but there are some similar skills here that can’t be ignored.

Big results in a short period

The first year McCaffrey made the switch to WR he found success. He finished with 58 catches for 723 yards and six TDs, then built off that in his senior year with 71 receptions for 993 yards and 13 TDs.

Perhaps what makes him such an intriguing do-anything prospect is that he’s got a little bit of Christian’s skills when it comes to running the ball. In two seasons Rice used McCaffrey as a runner 27 times, which he finished with 265 rushing yards and a TD. There’s some ability to use McCaffrey in gadget plays as well, which we’ve seen more teams using in recent years — most notably Deebo Samuel in San Francisco.

Considering McCaffrey is still a work in progress as a receiver there are definitely some building blocks here if he can continue to develop.

Great measurables

One of the reasons Christian McCaffrey was doubted entering the 2017 NFL Draft was his smaller build, but the Carolina Panthers saw potential in his speed measurables paired with his motor. Compare the two brothers and Luke projects very favorably to big brother.

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Obviously they play different positions, but the line is already blurred when it comes to how McCaffrey is used — and the same will be true of Luke. It’s just that he has a little extra size needed to play WR.

My team just drafted Luke McCaffrey. Should I be excited?

It really comes down to what your expectations are. As a mid-round pick he’s got really appealing potential — and it’s probably fair to have more anticipation for Luke McCaffrey than your average fourth or fifth round pick.

This is a guy who comes from a family full of football players. Luke has soft hands, great instincts, and a willingness to do whatever is asked of him. It’s definitely worth getting a little excited for, because with some time and nurturing he could easily develop into a plus-level third or fourth receiver.

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