4 candidates to be Christian McCaffrey’s backup in 2021

(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Christian McCaffrey
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Christian McCaffrey /
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Carolina Panthers
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Christian McCaffrey /

Who could be potential candidates to become running back Christian McCaffrey’s primary backup for the Carolina Panthers in 2021?

It is clear for all to see that the Carolina Panthers need a solid backup option in case there are any more injury problems where Christian McCaffrey is concerned. The All-Pro hadn’t missed a single contest before the 2020 campaign. But ankle, shoulder, and quad problems restricted the former first-round pick to just three contests last season that cast doubt on the organization’s decision to give their star player a record-breaking contract extension.

Mike Davis did perform well in McCaffrey’s absence to go over 1,000 all-purpose yards. But it’s hard to look at Carolina’s eventual 5-11 record and not think the Stanford product wouldn’t have made a significant difference in close games.

With Davis now with the Atlanta Falcons, it leaves the Panthers looking for another viable alternative to not only step in if McCaffrey’s forced to spend more on the sidelines but also take some of the pressure of their face of the franchise to prevent this scenario happening again.

General manager Scott Fitterer has done a nice job of finding some immediate contributors on the cheap in free agency, which also consisted of a failed bid to land running back Chris Carson from the Seattle Seahawks. This indicates Carolina is in the market for another veteran presence in the backfield and there might be a good deal to be had in the current financial climate.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at four potential candidates to become McCaffrey’s primary backup in 2021.

Player No. 1

Carolina Panthers
(Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports) Rodney Smith /

Rodney Smith – Carolina Panthers RB

This problem might be solved by promoting someone already on the roster. The Carolina Panthers got a good look at undrafted free-agent Rodney Smith down the stretch with little to play for other than pride, with the Minnesota product gaining 141 rushing yards and one touchdown from 41 carries.

Smith’s confidence visibly grew with every game and there is nothing to suggest he cannot build on this momentum next time around. He has a lot of likable traits to call upon and although the Panthers also have Trenton Cannon and Reggie Bonnafon, neither has shown enough to be considered as a No. 2.

Whether this is too early for Smith is up for debate. Perhaps that’s why Carolina wants a veteran to come in and allow the second-year-pro to develop at his own pace, which is probably the smart way to go at this juncture.