After Adrian Peterson had gone down last week, potentially for the season, McKinnon was one of the hottest waiver wire pickups in all of the fantasy football. Even if you scrambled to the waiver wire to get him, or burned up your FAAB dollars to acquire him, you should keep him planted firmly on the bench this weekend.
The Vikings backfield has an example of what happens when Adrian Peterson is unavailable, given that he was missing for 15-of-16 games in 2014. When that happened, McKinnon was just a rookie, but the Vikings turned primarily to Matt Asiata. While years of seasoning would lead to them putting an increased faith in McKinnon, chances are the two of them will still have a fairly equitable split, but one that tilts 60/40 for McKinnon rather than the rough 60/40 split in Asiata’s favor in 2014. Let’s also not forget that the Vikings have so much faith in McKinnon they went out and snagged Ronnie Hillman off the street.
While McKinnon may get more carries than Asiata in Peterson’s absence, Asiata is the better pass protector and their go-to goal-line weapon. This will give McKinnon a bit of Melvin Gordon 2015 syndrome in that his situation will preclude him from having significant fantasy value since he will need to break off long runs to get touchdowns. He will also need to overcome the lack of between-the-twenties third down duties to have a good chunk of the workload. I can understand if you are desperate going after a time split, especially given the RBpocalypse we went through last week.
Before you slot McKinnon into your RB slot, however, consider the opponent. He takes on a Panthers team that stifled running backs at home last season and is coming off allowing just 5.3 fantasy points to the 49ers running backs last week. The Panthers have built a stout front seven and use it to bludgeon the opposing running game into submission. They make for a terrible first opponent for the newly minted starter in Carolina.
While McKinnon quickly became a must-add for Peterson owners, he does not make a good option to start this week. There will be questions surrounding his usage in a crowded backfield, particularly as it seemingly does not have the goal-line work. He also takes on a destructive defensive force in Carolina that will lead to a negative game script. While AP’s going down should tempt you to put McKinnon into your lineup, he’s best left on the bench.