Tyler Gaffney, running back, Stanford.
While a running back didn't seem to be of vital importance for the Carolina Panthers this year, Dave Gettleman made a point to bring in a player who can take the reins when called upon and help drive the running game. While DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are both firmly entrenched as the team's running backs, anything can happen.
Stewart missed a lot of action last year due to injury, and that is why Gaffney was drafted in the sixth round. The backfield is still crowded with the presence of third-string back Kenjon Barner and fullback Mike Tolbert. However, Gaffney's role will be discussed momentarily.
A crowded backfield is of no concern to Gaffney:
The Panthers landed a player who was the featured back at Stanford and nearly reached 2,000 yards rushing; he fell short of the mark with 1,709 yards on the ground.
Gaffney's scouting report describes him as a back with excellent size and strong legs that are capable of churning through contact. The Panthers struggled at times last year when running the ball inside, and that could be a reason for his selection.
After all, remember how Carolina struggled to score at the goal line in the NFC divisional playoff game against San Francisco?
Among his flaws, he lacks any kind of breakaway speed. That means it would be a rare occasion if he broke into the open field without anyone in pursuit. He is a two-sport athlete who played baseball for a year at the Class-A level. It's unlikely the Panthers would have chosen him if he wasn't committed to football.
Tyler Gaffney was drafted by the MLB's Pittsburgh Pirates and played professional baseball at the class-A minor league level for 1 year.— Car Panthers News (@CarPanthersNews) May 10, 2014
With Williams and Stewart splitting carries for much of the field, Gaffney could be called upon in goal-line situations. Carolina generally uses Tolbert in such scenarios, but the offensive philosophy has always been about a ground-and-pound running game. Gaffney could split with Tolbert deep in the red zone or on third-down situations, thus establishing a power running game.
It wouldn't be surprising to see Gaffney and Tolbert in the same backfield either. Williams and Stewart are no longer the running backs they once were, and the Panthers could be bringing in another tandem for red-zone opportunities.
There is a lot of potential for opposing defenses to be worn down by the Carolina offense, and the coaching staff does not want to put the pressure on Cam Newton to make plays on every down. Plus, a power game could soften up defenses and allow the Panthers to go for the big play more often.
The ceiling can be high for Gaffney if he works hard and properly conditions himself for the NFL game. Having some help from the big guys in the trenches will go a long way in aiding with the process, but Gaffney could assert himself as a future featured back after Williams and Stewart have played their last down.
Welcome to the Carolina Panthers, Tyler Gaffney!
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