It may have taken three years but Jerick McKinnon is finally making a splash for the San Francisco 49ers and your fantasy football teams. After missing the entirety of the 2018 and 2019 seasons through injury including a torn ACL, McKinnon has returned to the field in 2020 with some immediate success. However, given the crowded nature of the 49ers backfield and McKinnon’s chequered injury history, how much should you be trusting him for your fantasy teams?
Jerick McKinnon has raced out of the blocks in 2020
If you drafted Jerick McKinnon in a best ball format in 2020, then you have likely been pleased with your returns so far. In each of his three games, McKinnon has scored a touchdown – one receiving and two rushing – while adding 198 yards at 7.6 yards per touch. If we add in his six receptions, then he already has 43.8 fantasy points in PPR formats.
The problem is that McKinnon’s output so far appears likely to be unsustainable. On average, a running back with McKinnon’s 26 touches would have just 24.2 fantasy points. Therefore, McKinnon is outperforming his expected fantasy points by 19.6, giving him a Fantasy Points Differential (FPD) of 81%. In the past decade, the highest FPD to be registered by a qualified running back (>50 touches) is 63%, with only seven backs registering an FPD >50%. Therefore, it would be expected that McKinnon’s efficiency will decrease going forward.
Historically, McKinnon has struggled for consistency
While the returns have been good from Jerick McKinnon this season so far, scoring over 10 fantasy points in each of his three games, historically that has not been the case. If we look at Pro Football Network’s Consistency Score metric, we can see that McKinnon has never had a consistency score above three in the three seasons we have numbers for (2015-2017).
To put that into context, the highest consistency score recorded by a running back was 12.9 by Melvin Gordon in 2018, with over 200 running backs having registered a consistency score over three in the past six years. McKinnon’s usage in Minnesota contributed to that as he never saw more than 159 carries or 68 targets. His highest total touches in a season were 202 in 2016, closely followed by 201 in 2017.
That concern about usage is now echoed in San Francisco. Even with both Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman inactive, McKinnon saw just 14 carries and four targets. While both of those are more per game touches than he saw in Minnesota, it is hardly the ideal workload for you to build a fantasy team around.
Even with the opportunities, McKinnon struggled to impress
Week 3 should have been McKinnon’s chance to stamp his authority on the backfield in San Francisco, but he struggled to make an impact. His Offensive Share Metric result for Week 3 was a woeful 0.42. To put that in context, only five backs have scored lower this season. Now while OSM does not take into account McKinnon’s work in the passing game, it is an indicator that he is not taking advantage of his opportunities when he is carrying the ball.
So far through the first three weeks of the season, McKinnon has the lowest OSM score of the 49ers three qualified backs. His 6.54-grade ranks behind both Tevin Coleman (13.26) and Raheem Mostert (9.43). Coleman’s OSM score is the fifth-highest among qualified backs this season, demonstrating there is success to be had for running backs in this offense.
That backfield in San Francisco will get more crowded
As I mentioned, Coleman and Mostert missed the Week 3 game in New York and still, McKinnon could not command over 50% of the team carries. McKinnon carried the ball 14 times out of the 28 running back carries. Additionally, he commanded just four of the nine targets out of the backfield. Yes, he saw the “majority” in terms of individual usage, but in terms of team usage, it was not a promising sign going forward.
With Mostert and Coleman expected back over the next few weeks, this next couple of weeks is likely to be as good as it gets for McKinnon as the lead back for the 49ers. When you also consider McKinnon’s own struggles with injuries, including the rib injury he suffered last Sunday, it seems risky to hold on and hope that we continue to see him performing to this level.
That said, the rib injury that McKinnon currently has does not seem to be at risk of keeping him out of next week’s game right now, but it is a timely reminder of how McKinnon appears to be one of the more injury-prone backs in the league in recent times.
Now is the time to sell Jerick McKinnon
As I recommended in my Week 4 buy low, sell high article, McKinnon is a prime candidate to sell high on. Currently, McKinnon is benefitting from a lack of top-level competition in Coleman and McKinnon and still is not commanding over 50% of the running back opportunities.
Equally, despite struggling to impress according to OSM, he is performing with a ridiculously high level of efficiency when it comes to his fantasy points return compared to expected.
When you combine all of this with McKinnon’s own injury history, his historical lack of consistency, and the fact we could see Mostert and Coleman on the field in the next couple of weeks, it would be foolish to hold on to McKinnon if there is interest for a trade.
However, it is worth being aware that this week the 49ers face a team in the Eagles who have allowed an average of 19 fantasy points in PPR to running backs and rank among the worst five defenses to play your running back against according PFN’s Defensive Points Allowed Consistency Score.
What this means is that your window to selling high on McKinnon could be closing quickly this week and now is the time to try and make a trade.