The new motto of late in the NFL is that you can find running backs late in the draft. The NFL has devalued the position, as evidence,no running backs where selected in the first round in 2013 for the first time in over 50 years. Teams are waiting until late in day three to find their backs. In recent years, Andre Ellington and Alfred Morris are examples of late round steals in the 6th round or later. As for the Cowboys, I don’t believe they are out of the running back market just yet because they have DeMarco Murray and drafted Joseph Randle in the fifth round last year. Phillip Tanner is a free agent who won’t be back and Lance Dunbar is coming back from a very serious knee injury. You also have to keep in mind that Murray is a free agent in 2015 and isn’t the most durable of backs. The team very well could spend a mid-to late pick on a running back, despite the fact that Murray is coming off a career year.
This leads me to a player I fell in love with when watching my favorite school, Florida, lose to Georgia Southern. In that game, Georgia Southern threw only three passes all game, completing none, and still beat Florida 26-20 with the explosive play of wing back Jerick McKinnon. A Swiss army knife at Georgia Southern, Mckinnon played three different positions in school, including quarterback, and racked up 3899 yards rushing in four years to go along with 55 touchdowns. If you want to watch him in this game, here is the video below. I think you will come away impressed.
If I am drafting a running back late, I want him to have at least one special quality. Whether that be as a receiver, terrific speed or size, or just a great athlete in general. Other than Adrian Peterson, there may not be a better athlete playing the running back position in the entire country. I know that sounds like a crazy statement, but we will get to his physical attributes in a second to prove that. If you aren’t familiar with spider-charts, (provided by mockdraftable.com), the chart below shows McKinnon’s measurables at the NFL Combine compared to all other running backs since 1999. For example, McKinnon’s bench press (32 reps) was in the 99th percentile of all running backs. Got it? Let’s take a look:
As you can see, McKinnon is a very explosive athlete who should be drafted on his physical numbers alone. For a running back, lower body power is vital in having a successful career. And McKinnon certainly has that. Below is a look at all of his numbers from the NFL Combine:
McKinnon has the best combination of quickness (1.46 10 yard split) and lower body explosion ( 132″ broad jump and 40 1/2″ vertical) that I have ever seen from running back in all my years studying the draft. There are major questions about he will adapt to a traditional offense, but with this much athletic potential , you have to take a late round flyer on him hoping that he will be able to figure it out. There is too much untapped potential to dismiss him late in the draft.
Although he is extremely versatile, I would want to play him at running back first and see how he fares there first. There have been rumors and rumblings that some teams would like to see him switch to the defensive side of the ball. The Dallas Cowboys actually put him through defensive back drills during his Pro Day a week ago. I don’t doubt that he has the athletic tools to play in the secondary, but I think he is a natural ball carrier.
If you are drafting a late round running back, he better be able to do something that will help the team so he can secure a roster spot. With his fearless play-style and versatility to play multiple positions, McKinnon could instantly become a special teams star, replacing unrestricted free agent Phillip Tanner. If you are looking for a player with a ton of upside and a guy that just loves the game, McKinnon could be your man in the sixth round or later. Keep an eye on him during draft weekend.