McKinnon said he is excited to work under 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, who believes the running back is much better than his statistics suggest, Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee reports. "I know the stuff we liked McKinnon on," said Shanahan. "If I could just cut up those numbers I think they would have been good numbers. But when you take the whole accumulation of things, I think they watered things down." Shanahan said he "got lost" while watching film on McKinnon, whose work as a pass catcher -- 94 receptions the past two years -- stood out above all else on tape. The 2014 third-round pick entered the league with an elite athletic profile in terms of speed (4.41 40), strength (32 bench reps) and explosion (40.5-inch vertical, 132-inch broad jump) -- talent he displayed while averaging 4.9 yards on 165 carries as Adrian Peterson's backup in 2014 and 2015. Eventually freed up for a larger role, McKinnon slumped to 3.4 YPC in 2016 and 3.8 last season, albeit with the aforementioned receiving contributions and some big plays sprinkled in. The Niners saw enough to warrant a four-year, $30 million contract, presumably betting that Shanahan's scheme will make better use of McKinnon's rare athletic traits. McKinnon will turn 26 in May and should enter training camp as the starter, ahead of second-year players Matt Breida, Joe Williams and Jeremy McNichols. The outlook always could change if the 49ers use an early draft pick on a running back, though Shanahan's comments hint that it won't be a priority.
McKinnon, who is set to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the league year, intends to sign with a team that will give him a bigger offensive role than he had with the Vikings, ESPN's Courtney Cronin reports. "I want to be the guy," McKinnon said. "I don't put in all the work in the offseason to come back and be in this role. I appreciate the role. It worked out well, but I want bigger and better things for myself." McKinnon added that he's open to re-signing with the Vikings if they can satisfy his desire for a featured role, but that seems unlikely to be something Minnesota can provide after they invested a 2017 second-round pick in Dalvin Cook (knee) while having Latavius Murray under contract through 2019. It may not be all that likely that another team will afford him that chance either considering McKinnon's averaged just 3.58 yards on 309 carries over the past two seasons. The 2014 third-rounder should still have a number of suitors on the free-agent market, but it seems more probable that he enters the 2018 season as a change-of-pace runner rather than as a lead ballcarrier.
McKinnon carried 10 times for 40 yards and caught 11 of 12 targets for an additional 86 yards during Sunday's 38-7 loss to the Eagles. McKinnon managed a respectable four yards per carry against the toughest run defense in the NFL, but he did most of his damage catching short passes as his team played from behind for virtually the entire game. McKinnon enjoyed an increase in his usage as a pass catcher this year, finishing with career highs in targets, catches and receiving yards. He also posted personal bests in rushing yards and total touchdowns, which could support his value on the free-agent market this offseason.
McKinnon carried seven times for 42 yards and caught one of two targets for an additional nine yards during Saturday's 16-0 win over the Packers. McKinnon averaged six yards per carry, but volume was not in his favor as he received his lowest allotment of touches since Week 4. This may come as a bit of a surprise, considering his team played with a lead throughout the game, but Latavious Murray's 21 totes limited the impact McKinnon had as Minnesota squared the victory away. He could see additional work next week against the Bears if the team is in a position to limit its starters, but it seems unlikely that he'd be too heavily involved if the team already has playoff positioning secured.
McKinnon rushed nine times for 24 yards and added seven catches for 114 yards on eight targets in Sunday's 34-7 win over the Bengals. While McKinnon was outplayed by Latavius Murray on the ground, he led his team in catches and receiving yards. Both members of this running back duo have provided strong fantasy value since Dalvin Cook tore his ACL in Week 4, but it's a bit worrying that McKinnon hasn't topped 50 rushing yards in his past eight games.
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