When the Vikings were looking at a running back to replace Toby Gerhart as a change of pace type of back to spell Adrian Peterson, there were several players who appeared to be options for them. The first running back of the draft didn't come off the board until the final third of the second round, but once they started being selected, they popped with regularity.
When the Vikings got their turn, they jumped on Jerick McKinnon, who general manager Rick Spielman said not only brings excitement to the game, but a rare versatility that left him awestruck from his pro day performance.
"He had maybe the most interesting workout I've ever seen in the spring," Spielman said. "They worked him out as a running back. They worked him out as a punt returner. They worked him out as a corner. He was just, from an athletic standpoint, just too good of an athlete to pass up – just too explosive as a player.
"I'd say the NFL teams got their money's worth," Spielman said. "His must have been the longest pro day I've ever seen and he didn't blink an eye. He just kept going."
The first up-close-and-personal look Spielman got of McKinnon was at the Senior Bowl and, with his explosion and skill set, he was hard to ignore.
"Our scouts had scouted him and you knew he was a great athlete. He played quarterback, some at running back and they played him on defense," Spielman said. "He's just a very unique athlete."
His biggest downside was that he wasn't asked to do a lot of the things that running backs in the NFL are asked to do when he played at Georgia Southern. He wasn't asked to pass protect or catch many passes because of the offense the team ran, but he showed a lot at the Senior Bowl in one-on run drills that he is willing and capable of doing many different things to contribute to the team.
How expansive his role will be will likely be fleshed out in the coming months, but offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who has worked with some of the best third-down backs in the league over the last couple of decades, is excited about what McKinnon can bring to the Vikings offense.
"Norv's eyes kind of light up when you see all the different things you can do with this kid," Spielman said. "Norv mentioned (Brian) Mitchell, who he had in Washington when you try to make comparisons. Norv has always had that burst ‘zero to 60' type back – not that he's like Darren Sproles – but those guys who can come in and do some things electric with the ball in their hands."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Spielman intrigued by McKinnon's athleticism
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