With the future of Adrian Peterson up in the air, fantasy football players are now deciding whether Matt Asiata or Jerick McKinnon is the back to own for the Minnesota Vikings.
Through two games, McKinnon only has two rushes for eight yards, so we have very little information to predict the success of the 22-year old running back. I do want to help Peterson owners with their situation, however, so I am going to provide you with a quick profile of McKinnon to help you familiarize yourself with the rookie running back.
The first measurable I reviewed was McKinnon’s performance at the 2014 NFL Combine. According to the NFL Scouting Combine, McKinnon finished with the second-fastest time in the 40-yard dash for running backs behind Dri Archer, and was also the proud owner of the most bench press reps among his fellow running backs. He also just finished behind Lache Seastrunk in the vertical jump, with a height of 40.5 inches. All you hear about the young running back is that he is a “freak athlete”, and when he finishes with these type of results, it is easy to see why.
One of my favorite sources for fantasy football information is Jonathan Bales, author of the “Fantasy Football for Smart People” series. In this article by Bales, he showcases how successful running backs were from 2005-2009 according to their approximate value per season. If you look at his chart, you can clearly see that running backs who recorded a 40-yard dash time of 4.40 or less, have significantly higher results of those recorded times of 4.40 seconds or more. McKinnon just missed the mark with a time 4.41 seconds, so you can either give him the benefit of the doubt, or hold it against him.
From an actual football perspective, I love the fact that McKinnon was able to dominate the bench reps, while also being one of the fastest running backs in the draft. This matching isn’t always mutually exclusive, but obviously the more muscle you have, you generally weigh more and aren’t as fast. Listed as 5-foot-9, 209 pounds, McKinnon is the perfect prototype for the NFL. With the speed to break into open holes, and the strength to keep his legs churning when defenders try to drag him down, McKinnon should be a formidable back for any opposing defense.
McKinnon could have all the talent in the world, however, but it doesn’t matter if he doesn’t have enough opportunities to carry the football. Fantasy owners will look at Asiata’s workload of 84 total yards and a touchdown last week as a sign he should be the starter, but hiding under Asiata’s headline stats, is normally a very poor yards per carry total. He normally benefits from the position he is placed in, rather than making opportunities of his own. In his game with three rushing touchdowns against the Philadelphia Eagles last season, Asiata scored two of his touchdowns from the one-yard line, and his third came from the five-yard line. He only rushed for 51 yards that game, and it required 30 rushing attempts to reach that number.
He did, however, have a strong performance against the Detroit Lions not long after with 115 rushing yards on 14 attempts. With only 47 career touches before this season, we just have not seen enough consistency to judge Asiata. I think the Vikings gave him the nod in Week 2 because he is more familiar with the system than McKinnon, but I don’t think he is going to be the solution for replacing Peterson.
The Vikings’ offense has a cushy matchup against the New Orleans Saints, and we could see McKinnon let lose. The workload will most likely start off on an even slate, but whoever makes the most of their opportunities is going to be handed the rock. If McKinnon can keep his mistakes to a minimum and doesn’t let nerves get the best of him, I think he is going to gain the edge as the starter.
You need to watch how things turn out this weekend, but I would figure out how I could make room for McKinnon on my bench.
Categories: Fantasy Football