by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Jerick McKinnon is all the rage as we head into our fantasy drafts, and an average ADP of 23.6 supports that. The question is, is he really worth a second round selection? At that spot you are selecting him like he’s going to be a three-down running back, something he’s never done before. In fact his career high is 159 carries (coming in 15 games in 2016) and over the course of his career he’s averaged just over 8 carries per game.
He also has seen his productivity regress over each of the past two seasons, which “coincidentally” were the two biggest carry totals of his career:
It wasn’t a late season fade (he actually averaged 4.1 yards/carry in December), so you don’t necessarily want to point to the enlarged workload and say that he wore down. At the same time his number was bloated by a pair of games where he averaged over 6.0 yards/carry… That would be impressive, except for the fact that he had just 7 carries in each game.
No one is going to question his ability to catch the football (he’s caught 94 passes over the past two seasons) and there is no doubt that he’s going to have a fairly heavy workload. At the same time expecting him to be a touch monster may prove to be misguided (the injury to Matt Breida changes the outlook, at least slightly, but not enough).
Just look at what Dan Graziano of ESPN recently wrote:
Shanahan definitely has a role in mind for McKinnon, but I don’t think it’s “bell-cow running back.” Before you point out that they gave him $7.5 million a year, you should know the Niners don’t think that was an overspend. They believed the running back market was depressed (pre-Todd Gurley, at least) and that $7.5 million per year for a versatile running back who can catch the ball and run it was a better financial play than, say, spending the $9.6 million the Jaguars spent on receiver Donte Moncrief. McKinnon fits in a lot of ways, but Matt Breida should have a role in this offense too, and don’t be surprised if there are weeks when Breida is the early-down guy and outscores McKinnon even in PPR leagues.
With that type of risk, is making such an early investment in him a wise decision? That’s not to say that there isn’t value, especially given the fairly uninspiring group of running backs going off the board behind him. Instead, maybe looking at a different position (like wide receiver, where Mike Evans or Tyreek Hill will likely be available) would make sense. You should then be able to grab a Kenyan Drake or Derrius Guice type running back in the third or fourth round.
Sources – ESPN, Fantasy Pros
Make sure to check out all of our 2018 preseason rankings: