San Francisco 49ers running back Jerick McKinnon is in perhaps the most crowded backfield in football. The former Minnesota Vikings running back was supposed to be a star in 2018, but an ACL injury erased his season before it began. Matt Breida emerged in his place and the 49ers also added Tevin Coleman in free agency. With three capable runners, what should you expect from McKinnon in 2019?
2019 Fantasy Football Outlook: Jerick McKinnon
McKinnon missed the entirety of the 2018 season, so there’s obviously not much to talk about there. However, the 49ers clearly had a plan for him prior to the injury. Coming off debatably the best season of his career, San Francisco gave McKinnon a four-year, $30 million contract to be the main guy. That obviously didn’t happen, but the 49ers didn’t really miss him. Matt Breida saw the majority of the work in McKinnon’s absence, recording 814 rushing yards and three touchdowns and 261 receiving yards and two touchdowns on 27 receptions. Even when Breida went down, Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson were able to fill in admirably.
Even before the ACL injury, it was strange to see McKinnon earn that type of a contract. While the running back showed flashes of promise in Minnesota, he’s never been anything special. Over his final two years with the Vikings, McKinnon recorded 1,109 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 309 carries, good for just 3.6 yards-per-carry. Additionally, he was never much of a threat in the passing game. McKinnon only has one season where he recorded more than 43 receptions of 255 yards. He’s capable of hauling in a few passes, but he’s far from being a James White caliber pass-catcher.
McKinnon is coming off an ACL tear, which is always dangerous for a running back. However, all reports indicate that he’s right on track and should be ready for the start of the season. McKinnon tore his ACL last August, so he’ll have a full 12 months to recover. This is plenty of time for a typical ACL injury in today’s day and age, so he should be near or at full strength come Week One.
However, that’s where the good news ends. Despite his lofty salary, McKinnon needs to climb his way back up the depth chart. McKinnon’s salary dictates he’ll be the first or second guy on the depth chart, but everything else suggests he shouldn’t be anything more than the third running back on the team. Despite not having a consistent passing attack, Matt Breida managed to have a better season as a runner than McKinnon ever did. His 5.3 yards-per-carry was better than McKinnon’s career-high and his 45.4% rushing success rate was right around league average.
The one area where he didn’t excel was as a pass catcher. McKinnon has some experience as a pass-catcher, but Tevin Coleman will challenge for the role. McKinnon actually has better pass-catching numbers than Coleman, but Coleman is the more complete back. Coleman averages 4.4 yards-per-carry and can make plays in both phases of the game. Additionally, Kyle Shanahan already knows how to use Coleman based on his time in Atlanta.
Chances are, Coleman and Breida will take on early-down work while Coleman and McKinnon will share work in the passing game. This puts a limit on McKinnon’s value, but you could still draft him in PPR scoring formats. The only question now is if McKinnon’s average draft position justifies a draft selection.
Jerick McKinnon Average Draft Position
Fantasy Football Calculator currently has McKinnon going off the board with the seventh pick in the ninth round of half-PPR scoring formats. This places him right in the same range as Austin Ekeler, Donta Foreman, LeSean McCoy, and Jaylen Samuels. Additionally, wide receivers like Mecole Hardman, Corey Davis, and Keke Coutee are also flying off the board around here.
At this point in the draft, all of the “good” running backs are long gone. This is all about picking handcuffs and high-upside players who could break out in the right situation. If you’re dead set on taking a running back, you could do a lot worse than McKinnon. While I’d personally take McCoy or Hyde over McKinnon, these players should have similar finishes. However, if you’re not set on any specific position, use this selection to draft your quarterback or take one of the three aforementioned wide receivers.
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