49ers fans should be thrilled about Jerick McKinnon in 2020

Jerick McKinnon #28 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Jerick McKinnon #28 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

Even with a crowded and talented 49ers backfield, Niner fans should be thrilled to have Jerick McKinnon back in uniform in 2020.

I already know what your thinking: Jerick McKinnon? The same San Francisco 49ers running back who originally signed a four-year, $30 million contract and has yet to play a regular-season down?

Yes, that guy.

And while he draws the ire of some 49er fans because of his injury history with the team, he has the potential to add a different dimension to the offense and help take it to another level this season.

During McKinnon’s years with the Minnesota Vikings, he showed versatility from the running back position, often lining up as a receiver to exploit mismatches with linebackers who cannot match his 4.41 40-yard speed and elusiveness. The advantage for McKinnon lies in his ability to work in space, both as a runner and receiver, and allowed him to accumulate 570 yards rushing on 150 carries, and an additional 421 yards on 51 receptions out of the backfield.

All told, he had five touchdowns for them in a limited role in 2017.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan is skilled at designing plays to exploit mismatches for his receivers and backs, and their versatility will allow him to utilize the same formation with multiple play variances to keep opposing defenses guessing.

In the following video, you can see how McKinnon was used in a multipurpose role with the Vikings:

And while the Niner backfield is talented and crowded, with Tevin Coleman, Raheem Mostert, Kyle Juszczyk and Jeff Wilson Jr., among others, none in the current group has the speed, elusiveness and versatility McKinnon has when healthy. His pass-catching ability alone will create more explosive plays in for a team that finished 2019 with the second-ranked rush offense in the league.

And while the Niners have been without his services since he signed his original contract, they were able to restructure his deal this offseason to save $5 million in cap space. In terms of giving the team some wiggle room while perhaps retaining a player who just may be able to give you real production without dipping into free agency or having to draft another back, the move could potentially work out for both sides.

If this video of McKinnon working out this summer is any indication, the 49ers may have something special to work with in 2020.


The rumor is McKinnon will next be working out with running back and former NFL MVP, Adrian Peterson, who himself had an amazing recovery from an ACL injury in 2011.

With the hope of full recovery from his injury, and a scheme by Shanahan that fits his playing style and skill set perfectly, Jet McKinnon has something to prove.

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And the 49ers may reap the rewards of a talented and highly motivated player when the 2020 season gets underway.