by Ray Kuhn
There might not be a player with more helium this draft season than Jerick McKinnon. All of the qualifications and signs for a player rising up draft boards are there, and if anything his draft stock might continue to climb as we get closer to September. But should it?
Since they have opened up MFL 10s, there have been 1,427 drafts (at the time of this writing), and McKinnon has an ADP of 32.2. Before you begin to question drafting San Francisco’s new running back in the third round, I know I certainly did, consider the fact that he is currently the 17th running back coming off the board. Would you be hard pressed to find more than 16 running backs, likely a few less than that, to rank higher than McKinnon?
While we are alright with that ADP, remember that helium, there have been 822 drafts since May 1st, and in those drafts McKinnon has had an ADP of 25.5. He has found himself being selected anywhere between the third pick and the 43rd pick in the draft.
Now, it’s decision time…
Let’s first take a look at what McKinnon did last season. In his first three seasons with Minnesota he was essentially a third down back, but he truly emerged last season following Dalvin Cook’s season ending injury.
McKinnon’s true value is as a pass catcher, and last season he caught a career high 51 passes (with 43 of those coming after Cook was sidelined for the season). Those 51 receptions turned into 421 yards and two touchdowns, and it provided those owners who grabbed off the waiver wire with true value, especially in PPR leagues.
What helps to make McKinnon a valuable fantasy commodity is that he coupled those 421 receiving yards with a career high 570 rushing yards on 150 carries. It was those numbers that led to a four year contract with San Francisco this winter, where he is the unquestioned number one running back. With Matt Brieda behind him on the depth chart, there isn’t much in the way of competition for carries and we know that McKinnon will be heavily featured in the offense.
That much was made very clear on the first day of OTA’s, as McKinnon was featured prominently as a pass catcher. We can only expect to see it continue and, as if it needed any help, they hype train is rolling from 49ers’ beat reporter Matt Barrows.
It is relatively obvious comparison to draw given the fact that Kyle Shanahan came from the Falcons, but Barrows floated out 73 as an over/under for McKinnon’s reception total in 2018. Conveniently that is a total Devonta Freeman reached with Atlanta.
The 49ers offense looked good with Jimmy Garoppolo at the end of last season, and there’s no reason to think that success won’t continue. We know that he is going to look McKinnon’s way quite often in the passing game, which makes reaching those 73 receptions quite plausible. Couple that with the fact that McKinnon will be the main ball carrier, and taking him in the third round is quite reasonable.
While, it may have once been thought of as crazy and outlandish, even selecting McKinnon late in the second round is reasonable.