In the third round of the the 2014 draft, the Vikings selected little known player Jerick McKinnon from Georgia Southern. McKinnon, not really well known leading up to the draft, seemed to be somewhat of a surprise pick for the Vikings, but Rick Spielman was enamored with his athletic ability, and thought he could be a guy that could be a playmaker for the Vikings.
If their first few practices in Mankato are any indication, Spielman is on to something. The one thing that sticks out about McKinnon is his speed. Like, turbo boost on a video game type speed. He has a smooth running style, and accelerates at a rate that, at least anecdotally, seems faster than Percy Harvin. Yeah, yeah, I know this time of year, everything is about how good everyone is and appropriate hyperbole, but seriously, this kid has something special in the speed department. We were able to catch up to him after this morning's practice (only because he agreed to walk) and get his thoughts on his first few training camp practices as a member of the Vikings.
DN: Were you surprised that you were a third round pick of the Vikings, knowing that they had Adrian Peterson? And did it change your mindset, knowing that the chances of you winning a starting job were slim?
JM: I was a little bit surprised at where I went in the draft. I really didn't have a good idea of where I would be taken, but everything happens for a reason, and I'm grateful for the opportunity the Vikings gave me. It really doesn't change my mindset, because my mindset is to come in and get better every day. As a rookie you have a learning curve to work though, and a lot of things you need to pick up quick. With me knowing that Adrian (Peterson) was here, I really see this as an opportunity to make myself better. As a player, maybe not now but further down the road, to learn from a player of that caliber, who's been at the top of his game for years, it's an opportunity to come in every day and learn from him, Coach Kirby, and the rest of the veterans on the team.
DN: You were talking about the offense and picking up the schemes. Is it a complex offense to learn, or is it something you can come in and pick up pretty fast?
JM: I've been able to pick up on it pretty good, and I understand it. Coming from college and having a different playbook, at first it was a lot. But studying, and asking questions of all the great veterans here like Matt Asiata, Joe Banyard, AP of course, Zach Line and Jerome Fulton, those guys do a great job of helping me out, making sure I know what I'm doing so when I get in there I can go full speed.
DN: You've got blazing speed, and it looks like the Vikings are trying to get you into plays that get you out in space so you can use that to your advantage. Is that an accurate statement?
JM: Um, I wouldn't go that far and say that. [ED Note: Whoops, my bad man.] Speed is something I do have. I don't like to rely on it, but I do like to use it, because it's one of my strengths. I'm a firm believer in building up your weaknesses instead of working on your strengths, because I want to have an all around game, like AP one day. I'm just trying to get better as a player.
DN: What's the biggest thing you've had to adjust from between college ball and the NFL?
JM: Pass protection. I've gotten better at it since I first got here, but I kind of fell into some old habits yesterday, and I lost a couple battles. It made me mad, because I know I shouldn't have done that, and when you come out here every day to get better, you don't want to do that. It got to me, but I came out here today to show Coach I'm not a second time offender, and I'll keep working on it.
DN: Is it the straight up blocking, or is it recognizing where the pressure is coming from?
JM: I would say at first it was a little bit of both, but I've gotten better both in going head to head and recognition. There's still some things I can do better when I get engaged, but I'm looking forward to it, and hope I get better every day.