After the departure of Toby Gerhart via free agency, the Minnesota Vikings knew they needed to find themselves a capable backup running back during the 2014 NFL Draft. However, they made a mistake in thinking that Georgia Southern runner Jerick McKinnon is the answer to their problems.
With the No. 97 overall pick, the Vikings went out on a limb to draft McKinnon, who will immediately be expected to serve in a third-down role behind All Pro running back Adrian Peterson. Unfortunately for Minnesota, the human Swiss Army knife is far from ready to shoulder the load.
First and foremost, McKinnon is an extremely raw prospect who doesn’t have a set position as he enters the NFL. During his days at Georgia Southern, McKinnon played quarterback, running back and wide receiver – it’s even rumored he can play some defense. While he’s certainly an explosive athlete as evidenced by his NFL Combine performance (4.41 40-yard dash, 40.5 inch vertical, 11-foot broad jump), the tape doesn’t show a polished player ready to see the field immediately.
What’s worse is the Vikings spent a third-round pick on him when several other options were available. With players like Devonta Freeman, Marion Grice and Ka’Deem Carey still on the board, Minnesota instead made a major reach by selecting McKinnon. There’s also a good chance he would have been available with one of the Vikings’ Day 3 picks.
Finally, the Vikings needed a running back capable of contributing on third downs – that typically involves pass blocking and being a target out of the backfield. Not only is McKinnon an inexperienced pass protector, but he only had 10 career catches with the Eagles. I understand upside, but was a third-round pick really warranted?
The workout numbers are great, but they don’t always translate to NFL success. The Vikings made the same mistake when they used the No. 9 overall pick on outside linebacker Anthony Barr, and are again displaying their infatuation with athleticism at No. 96.
GM Rick Spielman has been a draft guru since taking over for the Vikings, but this pick might end up in the “bust” column alongside Christian Ponder.