Old Faces, New Places: Jerick McKinnon

Old Faces, New Places: Jerick McKinnon

Player Analysis

Old Faces, New Places: Jerick McKinnon

(Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports)

Four years of mostly reserve action in Minnesota came to an end when Jerick McKinnon, 25, signed a deal to join the San Francisco 49ers. At the time, it was unclear if he’d be joined by another running back. As the offseason progressed without another running back being added, McKinnon emerged as the primary back, albeit in what will be a shared backfield.

His four-year, $30 million deal breaks down to essentially a one-year contract with starter’s money before an affordable out in the 2019 offseason, in the event McKinnon struggles.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan has a long history of splitting touches in the backfield. In all likelihood, McKinnon will be the 1a in a time share with Matt Breida, much like the Devonta Freeman-Tevin Coleman situation under Shanahan in Atlanta.

Over the past four seasons, McKinnon chiefly served as a change of pace to Adrian Peterson and then Dalvin Cook. Both backs ceded time in recent years to McKinnon via injury. It is safe to say, after 474 rushing attempts and 142 career receptions, we have a pretty good idea of what to expect from McKinnon as a primary back. He started seven games in 2016 and showed versatility, but the Vikings’ miserable offensive line play, in addition to a heavier workload, cost McKinnon 1.8 yards per carry on the season.

Year
Team
G
Att
Yds
Avg
Lng
TD
Rec
Yds
Avg
Lng
TD
Lost
2014
Minnesota Vikings
11
113
538
4.8
55
0
27
135
5.0
17
0
2015
Minnesota Vikings
16
52
271
5.2
68T
2
21
173
8.2
30
1
2016
Minnesota Vikings
15
159
539
3.4
36
2
43
255
5.9
41
2
2017
Minnesota Vikings
16
150
570
3.8
58T
3
51
421
8.3
41
2
2
TOTAL
58
474
1,918
4.0
68
7
142
984
6.9
41
5
2

Clearly, he is capable of contributing in several ways. A lack of scoring prowess isn’t by happenstance, though he was rarely asked to carry the ball in the red zone throughout his career.

Efficiency has been a problem for him. Using the past two years of data to focus on his increased workload, McKinnon rates among the worst qualifying running backs in breakaway run percentage. He ranked 24th in yards created per play, which helps illustrate elusiveness. He finished 25th in evaded tackles last season. Being able to create yardage and make players miss is important in Shanahan’s zone-blocking system. Players are often tested to make split-second decisions on misdirections and inside zones.

Based on the Vikings’ offensive line and quarterback woes in 2016, it is easy to ignore McKinnon’s negative metrics from that a season. But in 2017, when Cook averaged a full yard per carry more than McKinnon, it is tougher to give him a pass.

Since McKinnon joined the 49ers, San Francisco added offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey in the first round. Provided he wins a starting spot at right tackle, the Niners will feature four first-rounders among its starters up front. The lone exception, center Weston Richburg, was a second-round choice by the New York Giants in 2014.

Competition for touches should come primarily from Breida. Standing 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, he runs tougher than his size suggests. The second-year back is also versatile and is rather similar to McKinnon. A fellow second-year man in Joe Williams could emerge as a possible threat to touches, but he currently faces an uphill battle to make the final roster.

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo looks like the real deal, and the 49ers should improve in the passing game with a healthy Pierre Garcon and second-round pick Dante Pettis in the fold.

Fantasy football outlook

McKinnon is going, on average, in the late second round of PPR drafts, or the 14th chosen player at his position. His ADP is a similar 2:09 in standard formats, which makes him the 15th running back off of the board.

For the sake of comparison, last year’s 15th-ranked RB in non-PPR ended up being Alex Collins (152 points). He finished with 973 rushing yards, 187 aerial gains and six total touchdowns. In PPR, Jordan Howard ranked 14th with 1,120 rushing yards, 125 receiving yards and nine combined scores. This averages to 1,202.5 total yards and 7.5 touchdowns — stats easily within reach for McKinnon, though it may look more like 800 rushing yards and five scores with 400 receiving yards and a couple of touchdowns through the air. His receiving work should make him more valuable in PPR, topping out as a strong RB2.

His build (5-foot-9, 205 pounds) and background make it improbable McKinnon explodes with a heavier workload. While anything is possible, and the offensive system certain has produced excellent positional stats, the odds are stacked against McKinnon to outproduce his draft position.

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