In one of the most surprising moves in free agency, former-Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon has agreed to terms with the San Francisco 49ers on a four-year deal worth a reported $30 million.
It’s a massive deal for a running back in today’s market, especially when you consider all of the options in the NFL Draft. The 49ers have plenty of cap space, but McKinnon jumps up to the fourth-highest paid running back in the NFL, behind only Le’Veon Bell, Devonta Freeman, and LeSean McCoy. However you feel about his skill, the 49ers have arguably told you all that you need to know.
Once the 49ers decided to move on from Carlos Hyde, we figured they wouldn’t just stand by and let Matt Breida and Joe Williams take over the show. With that being said, McKinnon has arguably been a disappointment himself throughout his NFL career. He was supposed to be the heir-apparent to Adrian Peterson in Minnesota but played so poorly that he lost his job to Matt Asiata during the 2016 season. It’s not to say he didn’t bounce back and play better than expected in 2017, but this contract seems excessive.
But going back to what I said earlier, forget what you think about him from a talent standpoint because the 49ers gave us all the information we need. In fantasy football, we want volume, plain and simple. When you pay McKinnon $30 million, you’re going to ride him for as much as he can handle. The 49ers ran the ball 358 times with their running backs/fullbacks last year, or 22.4 times per game. The part most will miss, though, is that they averaged 25.5 carries per game with Jimmy Garoppolo under center, compared to just 20.5 carries per game with non-Garoppolo starters. That’s because the team was in position to win those games, something that’s important to continued success among running backs.
So, McKinnon’s competition on the roster is an undrafted free agent (Breida) and a former fourth-round pick (Williams) who was on the potential cut list last preseason before getting hurt and being place on season-ending I.R. Can McKinnon handle the 240 carries that Carlos Hyde had last year? The 49ers sure hope so. While some will expect larger numbers in the passing game, it’ll be difficult for McKinnon to top Hyde’s numbers there with Garoppolo under center. After catching 42 passes through 10 games with the combination of Brian Hoyer and C.J. Beathard, he caught just 17 passes in the six games with Garoppolo, who simply doesn’t check-down as much.
Bottom line here, though, is that McKinnon is going to get more work than he’s ever had before. He’s averaged 201.5 touches over the last two years and hasn’t missed any time due to injury, so maybe he’s readier than we’ve given him credit for. His statement this offseason was that he wanted to go to a team and be the feature-back. Well, he got his wish and it’s on a team that’s expected to be in the top-half of team scoring. Because of that, McKinnon is going to be a running back to target in fantasy football. Kyle Shanahan continues to produce top-end running backs and if McKinnon stays upright, he’ll be in the conversation for top 15 running backs at year’s end. As of this moment, McKinnon should be in the conversation to come off draft boards in the fourth-round, which might just turn out to be a steal.
Miss any of the other big-name free agent signings? We’ve got you covered with the links below.
Allen Robinson to the Bears
Sammy Watkins to the Chiefs
Kirk Cousins to the Vikings
Case Keenum to the Broncos
Trey Burton to the Bears
Jimmy Graham to the Packers
Dion Lewis to the Titans
Carlos Hyde to the Browns