After selecting Scott Crichton with their first third-round pick, the Minnesota Vikings used the pick they received from the Percy Harvin trade to acquire a running back. If their goal was to get hardworking players on Friday night, they achieved it.
Everything about Jerick McKinnon as a prospect points to his work ethic, determination and overall character. His build is a testament to his hard work in the weight room. McKinnon has a thick, muscular body type that's ready for the rigors of playing running back in the NFL. His willingness to play multiple positions is also promising.
The reason for pulling the trigger on this back in the third round revolves around athletic potential.
Few backs had the type of performance at the NFL Scouting Combine that McKinnon did. Per NFL.com, he posted a 4.41-second 40-yard dash, 40.5-inch vertical jump and 6.83-second three-cone time. Those were all in the upper echelon for running backs in attendance.
His usage with the Vikings will be most important in order to utilize that athleticism.
There are also many deficiencies that come with McKinnon that need to be refined, or at least hidden. The first is experience in a pro-style rushing attack. McKinnon played in a triple-option offense, spotlighting as a quarterback from time to time. Even when he played in the backfield, everything about the offensive scheme was entirely different. His transition will be big.
What could ease that is how he's going to be used as a Viking. Minnesota happens to possess a running back who will carry the bulk of the load, especially as a runner between the tackles. If McKinnon sees a ton of snaps as a rookie, they will be primarily from shotgun sets.
From there, McKinnon will be playing in space. That's where his athleticism can shine so long as he can catch the football. He's the type of back who can pull off big gains on a simple checkdown.
Reliability as a pass-blocker is also important. The adjective to apply to this part of McKinnon's game is "willing." He's not overly technical doing it, which is predictable. That said, he has the body type for it and is willing to meet rushers with full force.
Spielman: Thought process is putting McKinnon at RB. Trying to find another 3rd-down RB that gives us something different.— Ben Goessling (@GoesslingESPN) May 10, 2014
Going back to his inexperience in pro-style rushing attacks, the transition will be slow, but it can afford to be. He just won't be used much on the first two downs. Eventually, the goal has to be for that part of his game to be developed properly.
McKinnon could also have value for special teams work. With strict roster requirements, that always makes a player worth keeping around. McKinnon was recruited as a two-way player. He has that type of experience on the defensive side of the ball. His athletic ability would certainly be of help to him on special teams.
Initial expectations cannot be too high for a back who is as raw as Jerick McKinnon. The Vikings surely know that, or they would not have drafted him.
As the Vikings have no obvious backup with pass-catching value, McKinnon could see the field early. If that's the case, expectations will be raised. By putting him on the field, the Vikings would be saying that he's ready to go. They may need him to be in order to spell Adrian Peterson and keep him fresh.