Of all the Vikings’ draft picks last weekend, Jerick McKinnon probably led to the most head scratching among fans. We knew the Vikings would likely target a running back in the middle rounds, but McKinnon, a former option QB out of Georgia Southern, wasn’t on most people’s radar screens.
McKinnon strikes one as a bit of a raw prospect, at least in comparison to a player like Devonta Freeman, who happened to also be available when the Vikings selected McKinnon at #96 overall.
Why McKinnon over an arguably more polished and pro-ready player than Freeman? It seems the Vikings became gradually sold on McKinnon during their scouting process.
Running backs coach Kirby Wilson said per ESPN’s Ben Goessling, “At the end of the day, after reviewing every game and every snap, you came away convinced that if he fits character-wise and things check out, and he’s capable of learning, he’s got a chance. All those things just started adding up.”
What “added up” for the Vikings was McKinnon’s potential as a change-of-pace back in the classic Norv Turner mold. Mike Zimmer more or less confirmed that this is the thinking.
“The change-of-pace backs like LT [LaDainian Tomlinson] and [Darren] Sproles? Similar, very similar,” Zimmer said. “You’d have to ask Norv this, but from our conversations, he’s been thinking a lot about ways we can use him.”
So now the picture comes together. Why did the Vikings draft Jerick McKinnon? They’re sold on his potential to develop into a Darren Sproles-like weapon in Norv Turner’s offense. They’re sold on his character.
Now it’s up to Jerick McKinnon to reward their faith by becoming the player they envision. If you believe the scouts, it may be an uphill climb for McKinnon, who is seen as a very unfinished product with limited experience as a receiver.
We might want to hold off on those Darren Sproles comparisons, at least for the time being.