Entering the 2014 NFL Draft, the Minnesota Vikings had a lot of holes that the team wanted to fill. While a backup running back to superstar Adrian Peterson did not appear to be a need, Peterson’s age, injury history and workload over the recent years made it crucial that the Vikings addressed this issue. The Vikings ultimately selected former Georgia Southern athlete Jerick McKinnon with the 96th overall pick in the NFL Draft to replace the departed Toby Gerhart.
Simply put, McKinnon is a supreme athlete. While at Georgia Southern, McKinnon played quarterback, running back and a little bit of cornerback as well. His rushing statistics were impressive, totaling 3,899 yards on only 619 attempts. On top of this impressive run total and yards-per-carry average, McKinnon scored 42 touchdowns on the ground and another one as a receiver. McKinnon was the catalyst of a Georgia Southern team that took down Florida last season.
Many analysts were shocked at how high the Vikings took McKinnon in the draft, but his skill set and versatility make it completely understandable. McKinnon is very fast, recording a 4.41 40-yard dash and also shows great balance as a runner. However, he will need to improve his vision, blocking and patience if he is going to become an every-down back at some point in his career.
Since Peterson is not planning on relinquishing his starting spot any time soon, McKinnon projects as his backup and a change-of-pace, third-down back. He certainly is an enticing player to plug into new offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s offense given his versatility and athleticism.
Peterson has raved about McKinnon’s performance thus far during OTAs. He has called McKinnon a smart, hard-working kid with a strong desire to learn. On top of these intangibles, McKinnon has certainly shown flashes of his impressive athleticism throughout workouts.
While McKinnon will not start for the Vikings in 2014 barring an injury to Peterson, he still has a chance to be an impact player in the Vikings’ new-look offense. It remains to be seen what types of packages Turner will use him this season, but McKinnon surely will play some sort of role in improving the Vikings’ offense and lightening Peterson’s workload.
McKinnon has an opportunity to learn from the best in Peterson and based off his strong work ethic and versatile skill set, do not be shocked if McKinnon is the eventual successor to Peterson.