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Scouting Report: Jerick McKinnon, RB, Georgia Southern

Scouting Report: Jerick McKinnon, RB, Georgia Southern

Serious long term upside
By: Pete Davidson : March 05, 2014 8:06pm

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If you’ve been reading Rotobahn over the years, you know we don’t let the combine create players or override poor play on the field. If you can’t do it on film, then no amount of circus tricks in shorts and a tank top will help you. That said, there are some players who are legitimate tweeners or projections going into Indianapolis, and the Combine can really help when figuring out just what their potential is. Georgia Southern's Jerick McKinnon is one of those players, and we think he has a chance to be a special NFL running back when all is said and done.

McKinnon was most often used as a triple option quarterback at Georgia Southern and it’s often a crapshoot trying to figure out what option QBs can or can't do at the NFL level.  Making the transition is a tough act to pull off.  The good news with McKinnon is that he's got some experience as a running back and plenty of experience carrying the ball as both a QB and as an RB.  We have a feeling that McKinnon can be this year’s Denard Robinson. In fact, Jerick has a few advantages over Denard.  The main one being that he's not going to be cast as a jack-of-all or as an "offensive weapon."  This kid is going to play tailback, and clarity of purpose is something that will help him as a rookie.

Let’s take a quick look at McKinnon’s Combine numbers.

  • Height - 5’9” (5.87 to be exact)
  • Weight - 209
  • 40 - 4.41 (2nd)
  • Bench - 32 reps (blew away the field)
  • Vertical - 40.5” (2nd)
  • Broad - 132” (2nd)
  • 3-Cone - 6.83 (3rd)
  • 20 yd Shuttle - 4.12 (4th)

This guy flat-out dominated the combine. There’s no doubt he got a lot of people’s attention. The answer to any question you may have had regarding McKinnon's athleticism has to be an emphatic “yes” as far as measurables are concerned. We can move on with all that stuff.  McKinnon is officially a freak.

Let’s get back to the complexities of becoming a full time tailback at the next level.

Right off the bat, you have the pass protection issue, which Jerick addressed head-on at the combine. “I haven’t done much pass protection, and I need to get coached-up on all the techniques, but it’s something I’m willing to do. I think I showed I can put a hat in there and compete, but as far as technique, that’s where I can improve the most.”  He’s reality-based, which is a positive and we have no doubt whatsoever that he can learn to protect the passer. It’s just a question of how quickly he can become proficient at the NFL level. We project this to be McKinnon’s biggest challenge as a rookie, but there will be others, such as playing in an NFL offense versus the triple option.

McKinnon thinks his time as an option quarterback, and the coaching he received, will help him in terms of transitioning to the NFL. “They were really helpful in picking up coverages and blitzes. I’ve got to give them credit, and I think it helps me to understand what everybody else does. When you have a guy who understands what’s going on, it’ll help make it an easy transition.”

While there have been some doubts about his speed, Jerick was confident going into the workouts. “I know some people have me running slow, and I’m not going to throw a number out there, but just watch. It’ll be a good time. I think I may shock some people.”  He certainly did, and not just in the forty.

So what do we like about Jerick McKinnon as a potential NFL running back?

  • Size - While not a big back, he is more than big enough at 209 pounds and he has the right type of body. At 5”9”, he has a nice low center of gravity.
  • Strength - It's obvious on film and he was off the charts with 32 reps on the bench at the combine. McKinnon has the potential to be a very physical tailback.  His strength will be an asset in pass protection too.
  • Athleticism - He’s a smooth athlete, but also an exceptional one. He jumped 40.5 inches and had 132" on the broad jump.  McKinnon played multiple positions in college and that includes some time at cornerback.  When you consider his 3-cone time and his ability to play offense and defense, you have to wonder if this kid is already on New England's radar.  Oh yeah, he can also block in space, which will get San Francisco's attention and Philadelphia's too.
  • Speed - He’s fast on film, but he ran a very impressive 4.41 at the combine, and that’s going to raise his draft stock for sure.
  • Agility - Jerick’s agility drills were off the charts and when you watch his tape, you see it in his movements. He can make things happen in confined areas and out in space.
  • Vision - As he said at the combine, “I love to make plays. I can make defenders miss and feel like I have good balance and patience. Pressing to the line, I can make a cut and get north-south real quick.”  McKinnon does have a feel what to do with the ball. He’s always been a decision-maker on the field though, as a QB, he does err on the side of keeping the football.  That said, McKinnon shows good vision in the open field ... recognizing cutback lanes and running to daylight.
  • Big play ability - He’s just scratching the surface right now, but when you put together all of McKinnon’s strengths, you have a player who can make big plays at any time and he has the chops to do it at the next level.
  • Competitiveness - While pass protection is a skill he needs to learn, he is a willing and capable blocker. He plays the game with a strong motor.
  • Production - Jerick rushed for 3,899 yards at Georgia Southern and he scored 42 rushing touchdowns.  The end zone is a familiar place for him.  McKinnon also threw 12 touchdown passes as a collegian, which is worth noting.  This kid can already do a lot of things and that's certainly an indication that he can continue to learn.

Here's some good footage of McKinnon.  I'll update this section as more good film becomes available.  Here's some video from 2012 versus UCA.

More footage as an option QB in 2012 versus Georgia.

Here's McKinnon against Florida last season.

You can see all the qualities listed above on the tape, but McKinnon is probably going to have a tougher transition than most tailbacks. He’ll have more to learn and more to prove than a typical rookie. Then again, like Cordarrelle Patterson last year, McKinnon may be worth the wait.  His type of physical abilities are uncommon and once he's settled in, he has the potential to be a star.

Where will he be drafted? Your guess is as good as mine. If I was running a team, there is no way this guy gets to the 4th round, but this is a deep draft and players like McKinnon usually go later than we think they should. Denard Robinson was a prime example last year. One thing we are betting on is that this kid makes a significant impact by 2015. He could endure a learning year similar to what Christine Michael had in Seattle last season, but, as with Michael, McKinnon's time is going to come eventually.

I say it with all our rookie reports, but we'll have to see what kind of situation this kid gets drafted into.  I don't think McKinnon needs to be in a particular system.  He can thrive in any type of offense.  The question is, will he go to a team that'll give him a chance as a rookie?  Teams like the Jets, Browns and Raiders could use a back like McKinnon right away.  If he goes to a team like Seattle, New England or Green Bay, he'll be a developmental player for a while.

I'll fine tune McKinnon's redraft and dynasty value in our preseason reports and dynasty rankings.

I'll be back tomorrow with another player.

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