Jerick McKinnon: Project at RB—What Can He Do for the Vikings?

Michael Chang

After one of the best performances at the combine, former quarterback Jerick McKinnon will probably play running back for the Vikings and do it with a lot of potential

Jerick McKinnon from Georgia Southern is the final pick in the Top 100 for the Vikings, and he fulfills the backup running back spot after grading out as one of the most athletic running backs in the draft—even more than Dri Archer after accounting for weight.

A radar map of how he tests out against other running backs at the combine best demonstrates how he killed not just the straight-line measureables, but the flexibility, strength and agility drills.

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He's short, but compact (5'9" and 209 pounds) with a lot of durability and surprising power. He needs a better pad level to prove it, but with the best bench press reps of any running back at the combine (again, at 209 pounds) pushing the bar 32 times, he has a lot of endurant strength that we'll probably see the Vikings try him out as a grinder with speed.

One of the few players that that can increase their speed in pursuit, he can accelerate through tackles after hitting the second and third level. Most famously, he was a big part of the Georgia Southern team that knocked off the Florida Gators, and put up 125 yards on 9 carries to drive the dagger home.

Surprisingly, he's one of the few runners at quarterback that showed the kind of footwork you like to see from a running back, where he takes shorter strides and creates the latitude for sharp cuts while still maintaining the combine speed. Breaking away from a Gator defense on an injured ankle is impressive and that he has good footwork despite that is noteworthy.

That said, his agility gives him a little too much confidence in the open field and he can attempt to do too much. For a "project running back" he still has some moves you see from a running back like a spin move and juke.

Unfortunately, he does need experience as a running back reading blocks seven yards out. His vision reads were simplified in his triple-option offense and system, but he showed a lot of patience with his blocks and allowed them to develop—a difficult trait to find in pure athletes and an indication he can grow.

McKinnon is explosive through space, but it will be interesting seeing how that will change (and improve) with runup speed from seven-yards behind the line and whether or not that decisiveness can be blended with patience. He isn't afraid to punish defenders and relishes contact. He always finds a way to fall forward.

The complex blocking scheme in Minnesota will pose an interesting challenge in terms of how he can read a system without false angles or naturally appearing creases.

Expect him to play some relief options for Adrian Peterson. For all that's said about his speed (and it is incredible), people underrate his power and ability to hit. While he runs a little tall, he does approach contact by creating leverage and punching forward (sound familiar?) and seems to have the inverse evaluative problem of Adrian—people think of Peterson as a power back and sometimes discount his speed. Don't make the reverse mistake with McKinnon.

The fact that he went to the corner often at Georgia Southern could cause some issues, but unlike most rookie RBs seems willing to take the rational short yards instead of the risky breakout yards.

I wouldn't be surprised to see him and Adrian on the field at the same time, not for misdirection purposes but because we might be able to see him line up in the slot or leak out as a pass-catching option. He didn't catch the ball much at Southern, but his play and practices at the Senior Bowl as well as his Pro Bowl workouts showed a hands-catcher who caught the ball outside of his frame and without hesitation in stride.

It's not so much that he's an athlete without context; he is a football player that has integrated a lot of athletic talents into football-specific skills. The only real question, to me, is his ability to read on the run and plunge into a line. The rest he sort of has. He's not preternaturally balanced or elusive, but he has that talent above other running backs in the league already and can certainly turn into a complementary player with time and seasoning.

As for the pick value? Clearly a BPA pick, like Crichton. I think defensive back is still an issue that needs to be resolved, but what'll you do? It's another pick I'm not upset with, but I would have definitely gone in another direction despite the run on running backs.

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