Rapid React: Jerick McKinnon Torn ACL (2018 Fantasy Football)
As reported yesterday, 49ers running back Jerick McKinnon suffered a torn ACL on the final play of yesterday’s practice and will miss the 2018 season. This is a huge blow to those who thought the big contract (four years, $30M) was a sign that he would handle the bulk of the work in Kyle Shanahan’s offense in the Devonta Freeman role. The signing of Alfred Morris last month was thought to be more of an insurance policy for Matt Breida and his injured shoulder, not McKinnon. This injury news obviously increases the fantasy value of both backs as Breida was also cleared from his injury yesterday.
I’m quickly finding that there are clearly two sides to this debate. Some are all about the Alf revival, and I’m not talking about an 80’s sit-com reboot. The other side believes Breida is the younger, more explosive option in San Fran. Let’s start by checking to see if either of these guys are available in your league. If they are, you should at least think consider them for your fantasy team. Either of them could certainly help.
The results may surprise you as I had two drafts late last week where post-draft waivers ran this morning. I bid $17 FAAB on Brieda and to my surprise, I won. Morris went for $20 in that PPR league. In my standard scoring league, I lost out on both guys as Breida went for $31 and Alf for $18. The thing is, I’d expect those values to be flipped based on the difference in scoring settings.
All Alfred Morris did as a sixth-round pick was put up three consecutive 1,000 seasons to start his career as Washington’s bell-cow back in the Shanahan system. Morris was used sparingly in 2016, his first season in Dallas, but was useful last season as Ezekiel Elliott served his suspension. He averaged 4.76 yards per carry in his first real action since moving on from the Redskins where he averaged 4.4 YPC. The real appeal of Morris to me is in standard leagues, hence my comment above. His ability to score touchdowns in this system is evident based on him punching in 28 TDs in those first three seasons in D.C. The downside is the limited ceiling in PPR leagues when you consider he’s caught just 57 passes in 69 career starts, less than one reception per game. He won’t get the targets to be a major factor in the passing game, but he could still finish as an RB2 in standard leagues.
This is where Breida comes into play as the high-upside guy. I expect a healthy Breida to be able to take advantage of this opportunity with a significant role as a passing-down back that will spell Morris on occasion. Think Tevin Coleman in Atlanta, but with a few more carries per game and all the opportunity to dominate the snap count on passing downs. We already know Morris is being tabbed the starter and Breida his backup. I think this will be really close to a 50/50 split share unless one of them gets really hot, really early in any particular game (or early in the season). Even if Morris comes out on fire, I still think Breida gets close to, if not over, double-digits touches per game and that certainly provides a sustainable floor in PPR leagues with most of the passing targets going to him.
In his only NFL season to date, Breida finished 2017 with the same 4.4 YPC mark as Morris’ career average. His real chance to break out in a big way is being efficient with his passing targets after catching 58% of his 36 targets last year. To put his opportunity into better perspective, Morris has had only 27 passing targets the last three seasons combined. If we see Breida catching more of his targets, I think there is a chance he takes over as the “primary” back, but a timeshare will still exist.
And don’t forget about Kyle Juszczyk who will probably see some targets here and there as well as a small portion of goal-line work, but I hope not. One of these guys offers a reasonable floor and the other a lot of upside. It’s up to you to figure out which one fits your team and league type best.
Josh Dalley is a DFS correspondent at FantasyPros. For more from Josh, follow him on Twitter @JoshDalley72.