FA Expectancy – Jerick McKinnon

Updated: April 4th 2018

Our Free Agent (FA) Expectancy series is back! Throughout the offseason, I will be preparing a collection of articles that will focus on free agents and trade candidates. The articles will discuss the player in question, and what the move does to their value, as well as what their landing spot means for their new and old teams.

Jerick McKinnon – RB – San Francisco 49ers

Holy catfish Batman! We all knew that Jerick McKinnon was likely going to earn a bigger payday than his entire rookie deal ($2.73MM) but to become the 4th highest earning RB, $7.5MM annually and 2nd highest in 2018 ($10.5MM) is as big a shocker. It is as much an eye-opener as Kirk Cousins’ fully guaranteed contract. Clearly, Kyle Shanahan has a plan for him to be used frequently in his offense which has McKinnon truthers screaming in triumphant victory. Just two years ago, however, we had a similar situation with Giovani Bernard in which he was given a larger than average contract only to continue the same role he previously had as a pass catching/change of pace RB. Are we potentially being hoodwinked by the 49ers into giving a huge long-term deal to McKinnon? Let’s delve deeper into what McKinnon’s role will likely be based on Shanahan’s recent backfield usage.

McKinnon the Legend

McKinnon has been trying to hone his skills as a full time running back the last 4 seasons in Minnesota after splitting time as a quarterback and tailback at Georgia Southern. His metrics are off the charts which is why those who believe in him think he would exceed expectations given a backfield to call his own. On PlayerProfiler his best comparable is the best RB of the 21st Century, LaDainian Tomlinson which only elevates those expectations. So far, however, he has been fairly average playing behind another Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson and then last year getting his chance to split time with Latavius Murray only after Dalvin Cook was lost for the season. Now, this may be more of a coach’s lack of usage rather than a lack of talent however, it is something to note. It seems that Kyle Shanahan believes that he can be a starting back, even being quoted as saying that he has “3-down potential”. He better be for that price tag.

Dual-Threat Backfields

So what can we expect from McKinnon or any other RB in Kyle Shanahan’s offense in year 2? Shanahan-led offenses recently have evolved from the traditional, downhill running style of Steve Slaton and Alfred Morris to a full utilization of RBs that possess dual-threat ability in both the running and passing game. The most notable is Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman who received 108 and 105 targets between the two for his two seasons in Atlanta. In his first year with the 49ers, Carlos Hyde received 88 targets himself which suggests that Shanahan will feature his backfield as the big part of his offense if the talent is available. As I showed last year in my article on Kyle Shanahan he will also feature his running game regardless of game script. If the 49ers don’t make a huge leap forward this season their rushing stats from last season will act a pretty safe floor for the team again in 2018. As a team, the 49ers should have their backfield statistics in the area of 310 carries, 100 targets, 1,300 – 1,500 yards on the ground, and 500 – 600 yards through the air. This will likely bode well for McKinnon if he can truly be the primary back in San Francisco.

For a solid RB2 with potential RB1 upside McKinnon should be a player that most will target in their auctions during the summer. A two year, $35-40MM is probably where his value will be in most leagues. I would hesitate to offer more than two years because, like all other RBs, a lot can change in a backfield in 3+ years and until we see some production his going rate will be a major risk to a team’s cap situation. Remember that you can always resign him for more seasons if he becomes a top RB if your league has implemented the resign feature. As for trade value, if you are picking at the end of the 1st round McKinnon’s value should be comparable to the 1.08-1.12 selection. That is where I would start the conversation at but likely his owner will be more demanding.

Home Cook-in’

The Vikings were in a position that McKinnon was worth more as a compensatory pick rather than paying him with Dalvin Cook hopefully returning healthy next season. It will be important to watch the remaining days of free agency and the end of the draft to gauge how Cook’s rehab is going. Currently, only Cook and Latavius Murray are relevant runners on the depth chart with Mack Brown and Bishop Sankey left to compete for a roster spot in training camp. If the Vikings don’t invest more than a day 3 pick into an RB it should show confidence in Cook being back to full health for the season and likely being their bell-cow back.

The Vikings offense as a whole should be stronger with Kirk Cousins replacing Case Keenum. I don’t want to go into too much detail about the Vikings passing game as I will save that for a future article but I will speak to what his presence means for the running game. The Vikings had 100 targets available to RBs last season, 68 of which have been vacated by McKinnon. Having a great QB always helps the running game and with Cousins being a stronger armed passer when compared to Keenum this would suggest that defenses will be more spread out and playing further away from the line of scrimmage. This leaves fewer men in the box and more space underneath for check down and release routes. Being tied to Cousins for the remainder of his rookie contract and having one of the best offensive lines to operate behind suggests that Dalvin Cook should be a floor RB2 most weeks for the next 3 years. If he is healthy upon return Cook may be the RB that becomes the most consistent producer from the 2017 class when we reflect back at the end of their rookie contracts.


Make sure to continue to read more Free Agency Expectancy articles throughout the offseason to be prepared for your summer Auctions. Have a player that you want me to evaluate? Leave me a message on Twitter @RSO_NickAndrews.

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