Jerick McKinnon Needs to Be on Your Fantasy Football Team
When it comes to which running backs and receivers you take at the tail end of your fantasy draft, upside should be one of the deciding factors.
After all, you should have spent the first half of the draft stockpiling the best running backs and wideouts possible. Those guys will hold down starting spots on a weekly basis -- or at least that's the plan -- so once you get to the double-digit rounds, you’re looking for high-upside lottery tickets rather than low-ceiling options who can't crack the starting lineup even in the best-case scenario.
Very few players with an average draft position (ADP) after the 10th round possess the upside of Minnesota Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon.
McKinnon went to the 2014 NFL Combine and absolutely lit it up. He slayed in every event, with Player Profiler giving us the breakdown.
McKinnon is an elite athlete in a sport filled with elite athletes.
He’s basically a rich man’s Christine Michael.
A player with that kind of athletic ability is always going to be enticing in fantasy, but what separates McKinnon from Michael and other spandex all-stars is that the freakish athleticism carries over onto the field.
When he’s been given a chance, McKinnon has performed well.
Because he’s been stuck in a backup role for the majority of his career, we don’t have a ton of data on McKinnon, but the numbers we do have are pretty dang impressive.
Here at numberFire, we use Net Expected Points (NEP), our in-house metric. In short, NEP helps us understand the true value of each play in a football game. A 5-yard run on 3rd-and-4 shouldn’t count the same as a 5-yard run on 3rd-and-8. In the box score, it does, but NEP accounts for game situation. You can read more about it in our glossary.
Last year, McKinnon saw a limited amount of touches, but he was extremely efficient with those opportunities.
Among backs with at least 50 rushing attempts, he ranked third in Rushing NEP per carry.
If advanced stats aren’t your thing, McKinnon has also excelled in yards per carry. Over the past two years, among backs with at least 140 rushes, he ranks fourth in yards per attempt.
Any way you slice it, when McKinnon has gotten chances, he's shown he can be a very good running back.
If fantasy were as easy as plugging in the best athletes, it’d be a simple game, but there’s so much more that goes into it.
Opportunity is the foundation for any fantasy stud.
By any measure of efficiency, McKinnon had an excellent year in 2015, but he hasn't gotten enough volume to be fantasy relevant on a week-to-week basis.
Obviously, Adrian Peterson, an all-time great, is the elephant in the room. There is no disputing Peterson’s excellent career, but with that said, he’s entering his age-31 season. I’m not saying he’s going to hit the wall this year, but Marshawn Lynch looked like one of the best backs in football 12 months ago. Father Time is coming, and he's undefeated.
Even if Peterson plays all 16 games this year, there’s a chance McKinnon sees enough work to be a weekly flex option. Several times this offseason, Minnesota has said they want to get McKinnon on the field more in 2016, specifically in passing situations.
For his career, McKinnon has hauled in 48 of 70 targets for 308 yards and 1 score. Among backs to see at least 29 targets a year ago, McKinnon ranked 21st in Reception NEP per target.
Worth the Price
While Peterson caps McKinnon’s volume, he also keeps McKinnon’s price tag extremely cheap.
Per Fantasy Football Calculator, McKinnon is the 153rd player off the board in standard 12-team leagues. He’s the RB53, and there are eight defenses and a kicker selected before him, on average.
That’s crazy, guys.
Very few players taken that late boast McKinnon’s blend of ceiling, athletic ability, and on-field efficiency. If Peterson were to miss any time, McKinnon may be able to flirt with weekly RB1 numbers, but even if McKinnon remains in a backup role, he could see enough work in the passing game to be useful.
McKinnon is a high-upside lottery ticket worth purchasing this season, and there is no reason not to love him at his current cost.