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. He'll 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 agreed Wednesday with the 49ers on a four-year, $30 million contract, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports.
McKinnon was set to be a second or third option if he returned to the Vikings with Dalvin Cook (knee) set to return in 2018 and Latavius Murray still in the fold, but now he'll at least have a shot to compete for the primary job in the San Francisco backfield. The size of the contract suggests McKinnon will enter camp as the favorite for lead-back status, ahead of Matt Breida, Joe Williams, Jeremy McNichols and Raheem Mostert (knee). Of course, there's still time for the Niners to supplement their running-back stable in free agency or the draft.
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 had 12 carries for 44 yards in Sunday's win over Chicago.
McKinnon has been explosive this season but taken a back seat to Lativus Murray in the second half of the season. McKinnon has 283 yards rushing and 218 yards receiving with one touchdown in his last eight games. McKinnon can still produce big plays and will likely be a bigger factor in the passing game if the Vikings need to go to the air in their first playoff game after a bye.
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 their starters, but it seems unlikely that he'd be too heavily involved if the team already has playoff positioning secured.
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