McKinnon discusses idols and many comparisons

Jerick McKinnon is intrigued by all kinds of successful running backs in the NFL and has received numerous comparisons. But who does he think he mostly closely mirrors?

LeSean McCoy says he is better than Adrian Peterson. Peterson said he doesn't think McCoy really meant it. Jerick McKinnon has thoughts on both of them.

Wait, who?

McKinnon is the Minnesota Vikings' third-round running back who has an interesting position with the team, a position that extends beyond his talents and figuring out exactly how they will be used. McKinnon is backing up Peterson, who he calls "one of the best backs" but believes he compares most closely to McCoy.

"I like LeSean McCoy," McKinnon said when asked who he believes he compares to. "Just run out of that shotgun in between tackles, outside zone, just stretches and then come out of the backfield. So I would probably say something like that."

General manager Rick Spielman likened some of McKinnon's talents to Brian Mitchell and Darren Sproles, two elusive backs that played for offensive coordinator Norv Turner in the past.

While McKinnon compares most closely with the smaller running backs, he will be backing up one of the most explosive and powerful ones to play the game.

"It's crazy because you idolize somebody and you actually get the chance to play with him and meet him, and learn from him," McKinnon said of Peterson. "I think it's a blessing, so I'm going to take everything from him and soak it in like a sponge, and just copy what he does and learn from the best in the game right now. All I can do is copycat what he do and add to mine."

Their skills, however, are very different. McKinnon impressed Spielman and the Vikings with his array of talents. He worked out as a running back, punt returner and even a defensive back before the draft.

"He was just, from an athletic standpoint, too good of an athlete to pass up, just too explosive of a player," Spielman said. "Our thought process with him is coming in and putting him at running back. We're trying to find another third-down type back that gives us a little different version of what we have with Adrian and what we have with Matt (Asiata)."

At the team's rookie minicamp, McKinnon was front and center in the backfield. He was at the top of that depth chart but will be knocked down a few pegs when the veterans join for full-team organized team activities that start next week.

At that point, the way in which the Vikings plan to use McKinnon should start to take form.

"I like him," head coach Mike Zimmer said. "I think we're going to find some things for him to do. He's short in stature but he's got big legs and a big rear end. He's got explosiveness so I think we'll find some things for him to do."

Over the last two years at Georgia Southern, McKinnon was a 1,000-yard rushing back, compiling a combined 2,867 yards rushing in his junior and senior years. Surprisingly, he caught only four passes for 38 yards in that same time period, but the Vikings have plans for him as a third-down back.

"I feel real comfortable. Ran a little bit different offense in college. As far as catching the ball, I'm really comfortable with it," he said.

He also threw 81 passes over his four seasons, returned four kickoffs and made five tackles on defense.

The Vikings have plans for him at running back, but it's clear he offers the opportunity for them to explore a little more non-traditional role for him. He is intrigued with what Turner has been able to do with a variety of different running backs in the past.

And the comparisons keep coming for a player that is hard to pigeonhole.

"I watched LT (LaDainian Tomlinson). I know the other day in the running backs room, we were watching some old cut-up film of LT on there, some Rashard Mendenhall, and just watching LT come out those cuts and set the linebacker and stem and go the opposite way. Was definitely exciting to watch," McKinnon said, before referencing another back.

"Marshall Faulk. I like how he carries himself on the field. I like when he runs between the tackles and gives the 1-2 step and get in and out of it real quick."

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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