Christian McCaffrey, the driving force behind the San Francisco 49ers' potent offense this season, was named the 2023 Associated Press NFL Offensive Player of the Year on Thursday at NFL Honors following what might have been his finest individual season since joining the league back in 2017.
In his first full season with the 49ers after joining them at the trade deadline in 2022, McCaffrey led the NFL in rushing yards (1,459), yards from scrimmage (2,023) and touchdowns (21) in spite of sitting out the regular-season finale after San Francisco had clinched home-field advantage and a bye in the playoffs.
Even with stiff competition, McCaffrey was considered a big favorite to win the award. He beat out Dolphins wideout Tyreek Hill, 222-139, with 39 first-place votes to 7. Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (45 points) Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (32) and Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (five) rounded out the finalists.
The Niners raced out to a 5-0 start before dropping three straight games, which happened to be three of McCaffrey's least-productive outings of the season. But McCaffrey maintained a streak of 17 straight games with at least one touchdown until Week 10, tying Lenny Moore's all-time mark, and finished the season strong, with an average of 133 yards from scrimmage per game over his final nine games before sitting out Week 18.
And though this is a regular-season award, McCaffrey kept rolling in two playoff games, scoring two touchdowns in each and totaling 260 yards, in leading the 49ers to a spot in Super Bowl LVIII against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium.
The NFC champion 49ers ranked second in total yards per game, third in rushing yards per game, fourth in passing yards per game and third in scoring. They gained 300 or more yards in every game this season but one (the Week 6 loss to the Browns) and racked up a season-high 527 in the dominant Week 14 win over the Seahawks.
McCaffrey was a huge part of the team's offensive success, carrying the unit at times when quarterback Brock Purdy endured some brief struggles following his elbow reconstruction last offseason. The 49ers gave CMC the ball 17 or more times in every game this season except for the loss at Cleveland, where he only touched it 14 times.
McCaffrey is the fifth 49ers player to win the award but the first since Jerry Rice in 1993. Rice won it twice with the 49ers, and Joe Montana, Steve Young and Roger Craig each took home the AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year award once apiece.