After the Vikings lost to the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game this past season, soon-to-be free-agent running back Jerick McKinnon told reporters he believed he’d proven he is a top-flight player in the NFL.
“I think I’ve shown my worth,” said McKinnon, who had 991 yards from scrimmage in his fourth season. “We’ll see what happens.”
What happened was, the 49ers saw value in what McKinnon does and gave the 25-year-old former Georgia Southern star a four-year deal worth $30 million.
The 49ers believe McKinnon, a 5-foot-9, 205-pounder who had 94 catches out of the backfield over 2017 and 2016, will be a perfect fit for Kyle Shanahan’s offense. While some around the NFL were surprised the 49ers gave such a big contract to McKinnon, one who sees the value is his former head coach, Mike Zimmer of the Vikings. Zimmer says the former third-round draft choice is special.
“I knew he was going to get his money,” Zimmer recently told reporters. “I obviously didn’t know it was going to be that high. But he’s a good kid. He’s worth it.”
McKinnon is a great combination of speed and strength, having run a 4.41 time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine while also doing 32 lifts in the bench press, a record for running backs at the combine.
“He catches the ball extremely well out of the backfield,” said Zimmer. “He became a much better runner last year. He hit the hole much better last year and accelerated out. He’s great in pass protection even though he’s a smaller guy.”
Plus, said Zimmer, McKinnon’s work ethic and attitude helped make the Vikings better.
“He’s a great kid,” said Zimmer. “He works hard. He always has a smile on his face. We’re going to miss him.”