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Rookie RB Jerick McKinnon Looks to be the Real Deal

When the Vikings drafted running back Jerick McKinnon in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft, they knew he held a lot of potential. And he’s living up to their expectations.

McKinnon is already gaining a lot of recognition, including most recently from star RB Adrian Peterson. When Mr. All Day himself calls you out as a solid player, that has to feel good.

According to the Star Tribune‘s Master Tesfatsion, Peterson named Georgia Southern alum as one of the guys impressing him the most this offseason.

“[McKinnon]’s pretty impressive and there’s not too many guys who impress me like that, especially rookies coming in,” Peterson said. “He’s been able to do some real good things in the offense, picking it up well and just his running style.”

You can bet McKinnon does not take this caliber of praise lightly. “When you’re learning from the best in the game, you really just got to take on everything and everything he says you got to listen to,” McKinnon said. “I just got to feed off him and all it to my game.”

Minnesota targeted the rookie in the draft for his versatility and impressive speed, GM Rick Spielman calling him “too good of an athlete to pass up.” McKinnon put up impressive numbers in college, tallying 3,899 yards on just 619 carries and scoring 42 touchdowns on the ground. At the combine, he recorded a 4.41 40-yard dash. On the down side, McKinnon’s blocking skills have been criticized by analysts, and there is certainly room for improvement in that area. His extreme athleticism, though, cannot be ignored. Hopefully, the rookie will continue to develop into a well-rounded player under the mentorship of Peterson.

During the Vikings mini camp, running backs coach Kirby Wilson said the following of McKinnon:

What jumps out to me about him is he’s a quick learner. He retains the information and then he’s able to come out and execute it out on the field. So that’s impressive for a young guy […] He stood out to me as a guy who’s very quick, had a nice burst into the line of scrimmage, had a very good acceleration in and out of his cuts. I thought he had a very good vision and instincts and change of direction, all of the things that indicate he could possibly be a good football player at this level.

McKinnon clearly has a vote of confidence from Peterson and his coaches. Criticized for drafting the RB as early as they did, the Vikings want to prove they knew exactly what they were getting. And with only 22 days until full training camp and five weeks until the first preseason game, McKinnon is ready to show us what kind of impact he will have on the field.

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Lindsey Young

Lindsey Young (Featured Columnist) is a graduate of University of Northwestern – St. Paul and is an avid Minnesota sports fan[atic]. It’s been argued females don’t know much about sports, but she begs to differ. Her work has been featured on Bleacher Report,, and Fox Sports North. In addition to her work with VT, Lindsey is a contributing writer for Canis Hoopus, runs a bi-monthly fan feature for and is a freelance writer for You can read her blog at Making the Call and follow her on Twitter.

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  1. With McKinnon looking like the scat back/pass catcher/change of pace guy that we’ve been looking for; Zach Line as a potential RB-that-can-play-FB; Rhett Ellison as the TE/FB hybrid; and Asiata available as a backup north-south pound-the-ball guy; what are the chances that Felton makes the cut in a Norv Turner offense that historically doesn’t carry/value fullbacks?

    1. Vikeoarseas-
      This is what Norv has to say about fullbacks.
      “You want to be a physical football team. We’ve had good fullbacks where we’ve been and we’ve done things from more of a two tight end-two receiver set. So I think a lot of what’s happening in football now is the field being spread a lot more. The fullback still has got a role, but it’s not as big a role in this league. You like to have that physical presence. Sometimes you get that out of a tight end, sometimes you get that out of a pure fullback.”

      Felton is a good blocker and has that physical presence… but I think Norv also likes to get the ball in the hands of his fullback too. 2 TE and 2 Wr sets mean a single back in the backfield. Felton doesn’t fit that type of profile to be any kind of threat in those sets.

      IMO, Felton is on the bubble along with Asiate. I think Zack Line and Ellison both fits Norv’s FB mold.

      1. Totally agree with your comment but remember Peterson really likes Felton so I could see him staying because of that. But i agree Ellison and Line could fill those shoes and save a roster spot.

        1. Good point skol. You might be right. Line was conveniently placed on injuried reserve when Felton came back from his 3 game suspension. Line’s knee injury didn’t need surgery and he had been playing with through it. The Vikings were able to buy more time last season with Line, but this season they will have some tough cuts to make.

          Felton is 28 or 29 and he is not much of a single back threat. AP like him as a lead blocker,
          so, I could also see Line as the 3rd RB and Asaita on the cut bubble.

          Should be interesting to watch all the bubble battles this year.

    2. Norv brings two things: 1st – Top game day play calling and halftime offensive adjustments. 2nd – Great use of RBs in Passing and screen game. My big worry – Recent Norv offenses slow early season starts colliding with a brutal early season schedule.

    3. In my opinion with MacKinnon, Line, and Ellison on the roster Asiata is expendable and not needed.

  2. So happy Musgrave is no longer the O/C. The weapons on this offense are going to be very very dynamic….AND, actually be used!

  3. Nice article Lindsey. I was surprised at us picking McKinnon as most people were but the more I hear about him, the more I like.
    In fact I like this team a LOT!
    Unless I’m a complete Homer/Dolt, I’m convinced this team is going to surprise the hell out of everyone (Except me)
    I just checked the odds of the Vikings making the playoffs this year and I think those guys are CRAZY!
    Most odds makers have us last or nearly last in making the playoffs. Vegas has us dead last to win the NFC.
    Where can I go to bet on their playoff chances?
    I’m serious, if any one knows, let me know.

    1. My father-in-law can place bets. He lives in Carson City NV. I put money on the Viking’s for the NFC North title and Super Bowl. It was a waste of money last year. I may have to put some money on them this year. I know my father-in-law said the closer the season gets the worse the odds get.

        1. He buys parlay tickets at the casino’s in Carson City or Reno. Each casino will have different odds and he looks for the best odds.

  4. Great article Lindsey. The more weapons and versatility the better. A concept Muskrat never understood,

  5. Good writeup. Looking forward to watching him run. Any word on the other RB we signed, Dominique Williams?

  6. While I like him I wished we would have picked up one of the very good wide receivers in this draft after getting our QB.

    I think our WR set is being overrated by some fans. Many are pinning hopes on CP but even these coaches say that right now he is best in the slot until he learns to run routes well (same thing previous coaches said.) They also give the impression this could be a several year project, in the meantime our WR group is suspect. Maybe some guys will come through bigger than I think they will.

    1. I cannot recall whose take it was, but someone said that CP is a football savant. He doesn’t run the most precise routes, and isn’t the technician that Jennings might be. And yet he just makes plays.

      I think we have a versatile crew. Jennings, Patterson, Wright, and even Simpson all have somewhat unique and complimentary skills filling different needs. I think our WR is more than capable of operating very effectively. We don’t need a top 5 or even a top ten WR to be a highly effective offense. We have so many play makers and so much diversity I think we are in really, REALLY good shape if and when Teddy figures things out.

      1. Early indications are that Flash is already a better route runner than Harvin is despite being earlier in his career. Precise route running is a skill that takes a while to develop. The fact he’s showing improvement at all is a great sign.

  7. Other than one play broken for a TD, what else has Zack Line done that impressed anyone? I honestly can’t recall anything. Rather keep Felton and let Line go, Felton is a more accomplished blocker.

  8. I do think that McKinnon has upside but at only 5’9″ 209 durability becomes an issue. I think he has the potential to be a 1-2 punch with Peterson but not a kid that can carry the load if AP gets dinged up. Certainly can be an exciting year for the Vikes with Patterson getting a longer look too.

  9. I’m happy to hear that McKinnon is turning heads and might be able to contribute as a rookie.

    I think a lot of us are high on Line because he was a feature back in college and seems to be the closest thing we have to Toby Gerhart on the roster. To me, that makes him the most likely candidate to step in in case AP goes down with a season-ending injury. The question is, can he really replace Felton as the blocking back in the base offense?

    Asiata seems limited but I wonder if he could be a Pete Banaszak/Don McCauley-type (look ’em up, you young whippersnappers!) short yardage specialist (Goal Line and 3rd or 4th & short) who could take that job off of Peterson’s plate, thereby maybe extending AP’s career. If he can’t do that, does he bring anything to the team that Line doesn’t?

    I think Felton has underrated ball skills and could play more of a role in the receiving game, though he’ll never be a McCauley or a Daryl Johnston who, let’s not forget, went to his first Pro Bowl with Norv Turner as his Offensive Coordinator.

    If we only keep four running backs on the roster and I had to bet on it, I’d say that Asiata will be the odd man out.

  10. Of course, I forgot to mention the salary cap implications, which would point to Felton being cut. I doubt that Spielman has leaned his lesson about cutting servicable veterans when their replacements still haven’t proven themselves – see J. Robinson and S. Floyd – so I wouldn’t be shocked to see Felton cut and Turner forced to stick with the two-TE offense all season because, surprise, surprise, neither Line nor Asiata can handle the FB blcking assignments.