Jerick McKinnon Fantasy Outlook: A Declining Role for the Kansas City Chiefs’ Aging RB?

Kansas City Chiefs RB Jerick McKinnon is coming off his best season in five years. Oh, and he's 31 years old. What is his fantasy outlook in 2023?

At PFN, we’ve researched more than 350 fantasy football players, trying to identify which ones are overrated, underrated, and priced right. With that in mind, here is Kansas City Chiefs RB Jerick McKinnon’s fantasy outlook for 2023.

Behind in research? Get a trade offer in your dynasty or redraft league? Not sure who to start or sit this week? Leverage PFN’s FREE fantasy tools — our Fantasy Football Draft Kit, Fantasy Football Trade Analyzer and Calculator, and Start/Sit Optimizer! Put the finishing touch on your A+ draft with 1 of our 425+ fantasy football team names.

Jerick McKinnon’s 2023 Fantasy Outlook

Pause for a moment and consider where McKinnon’s career was five years ago vs. where it is today. After primarily backing up the inimitable Adrian Peterson, the soon-to-be 26-year-old McKinnon earned a nice payday with the 49ers in 2018 and was expected to serve as their long-term bell cow.

Then he tore his ACL a week before Week 1, ending his campaign before it even started. He was placed on injured reserve almost exactly one year later, ending yet another season that never began.

Rarely has a starter-caliber RB missed two straight seasons and then returned as a productive player. The closest example might be Ricky Williams. But Williams missed nearly two years because of failed drug tests.

McKinnon’s case was entirely different. Recovering from two season-ending injuries is hard enough. Doing it twice in a row and then returning as a role player nearly three years after he last competed is simply incredible. McKinnon’s determination and talent have taken him far.

It’s important context as we assess his fantasy value. McKinnon is one key reason why the Chiefs’ dynasty has continued. After they signed the seemingly post-prime 29-year-old ahead of the 2021 season, he proceeded to reward them in the playoffs, averaging 11.3 carries and 4.7 receptions while racking up 315 total yards across three contests.

And last year, he kept the good times rolling, despite consistently playing behind Clyde Edwards-Helaire and/or Isiah Pacheco. McKinnon caught a career-high 56 passes on (more impressive) a career-high 9.1 yards per reception. He broke an incredible 10 tackles on his limited touches, and while seven TDs came inside the opposing 10-yard line, he also scored from 20, 26, and 56 yards out.

This wasn’t just vintage McKinnon. This is some of the best work he’s ever produced.

So what’s the problem? (There’s almost always a problem.) Well, for starters, we have to at least consider that he’s now 31 years old, and he’s coming off his highest-volume campaign since 2017. Edwards-Helaire and Pacheco remain entrenched in the backfield.

And we have to consider his modest late-season decline on the ground. While he rushed four times for 34 yards in the Super Bowl, he collected only 43 scoreless yards on 24 carries (1.8 ypc) in his previous five outings. His yards-per-catch average dipped in his final four games.

Small sample size? Sure. But it might signal how Kansas City wants to utilize him this season. The Chiefs are eyeing another Super Bowl. There are no incentives to overwork their 31-year-old passing-down specialist in September or October.

Additionally, his 10 touchdowns are a statistical outlier. Many came at the expense of teammates. Sure, McKinnon deserved it all. But they accounted for 31% of his fantasy points. Had he scored only three times, he would have been the overall RB30 instead of the RB20. Entering last year, he’d averaged three touchdowns per season, often while earning a lot more work.

The caution with McKinnon is that he realistically can’t play any better than he did last year — not at his age and with the talent surrounding him. And even if CEH or Pacheco gets hurt, it probably won’t impact his usage, which probably will be roughly 5-7 touches per game.

As a flier in deep PPR leagues, he might be worth starting three or four times all year. There are plenty of higher-ceiling RBs to choose from at his price point.

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast!

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Fantasy Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms.  Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review!

Related Articles