In case you missed it, spoiler alert, San Francisco 49ers running back (and off-season fantasy football darling) Jerick McKinnon tore the ACL in his right knee on the final play of Saturday’s practice. Although you never want to see a player get hurt, as a fantasy football owner, this will often create opportunity for one, or two, fantasy players as a result.
The hot waiver wire pickup is going to be the newly signed Alfred Morris. Morris is familiar with Kyle Shanahan dating back to his 2012 rookie season when Shanahan was his offensive coordinator in Washington. In two seasons under Shanahan, Morris played 32 games and amassed 2,888 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns on 611 carries. Not bad work if you can get it. He’s not likely to see that kind of volume, but averaged out we could be looking at a 1,444 yard, 10-touchdown ceiling. That lofty total would be good for something in the neighborhood of 210 fantasy points.
Morris’ main competition for touches looks to be second-year man Matt Breida. I was high on Breida coming out last year and wrote about him when I took a look at the top undrafted rookie free agent running backs of 2017. I had this to say last year:
“The 5’10”, 195 pound back from Georgia Southern was on everybody’s radar a year ago after back-to-back 17-touchdowns seasons where he amassed over 3,000 yards on the ground between 2014 and 2015 while averaging an insane 8.3 yards per carry. Then after a coaching change, and along with it a change in offensive scheme, Breida fell out of favor and turned in only 646 rushing yards with three scores and a paltry 3.8 yards-per-carry (YPC) average. As a result, he went undrafted despite eye-popping numbers at his pro day.
His pro day numbers, had he been invited to participate in the combine, would have seen him atop the entire running back class in vertical jump (42”) and broad jump (142”), 2nd in the 40-yard dash (4.39) and tied for third in the bench press(23), all of that leading to the highest SPARQ score in the entire “stacked” RB class of 2017.
While he is still no lock to make the 49ers final 53-man roster, he’s off to a strong start and was reportedly the best rookie during all of minicamp. He has a real opportunity to outplay and surpass fellow rookie Joe Williams, and with an injury-plagued Carlos Hyde ahead of them on the depth chart, he could be a sneaky player to stash on your roster.”
UDFAs tend to have a steep learning curve entering the NFL, but Breida hit the ground running (no pun intended) last year. With nearly 500 yards on over 100 carries and another 180 yards on 21 receptions, Breida showed he was up to the task as a rookie. He was already looking to have an expanded role this season, but the injury to McKinnon opens up the number of available touches even more. He seems to be fully recovered from a shoulder injury he sustained in week 1 of the preseason and should be in line for a significant workload this year.
Where does all of this leave Jerick McKinnon? With 2018 now being a total loss, he should be a safe buy-low option in dynasty, right? Wrong. Even if you believe in McKinnon’s talent, most of the off-season love fest was tied to the Shanahan offensive system. McKinnon just happened to be the guy that landed in the right spot during free agency. But the future isn’t so bright. Courtesy of Spotrac.com you’ll see that McKinnon was signed to a heavily front-loaded deal, more or less structured as a one-year deal.
If Breida or Morris do well, I’d expect the Niners to keep them in the lead role. If they don’t do so well, I’d expect the Niners to address the position in the 2019 draft. Either way, it’s not looking good for McKinnon going forward in a 49ers uniform as it is cheaper to cut him and take the cap hit than it is to keep him, especially after 2019.
The 2018 Season
How does this all play out for fantasy? I’m completely biased, as Breida is one of my most heavily owned players, but I’m hoping to see him thrive with the extra touches. I have some concerns regarding a 5’10”, 190lbs running back taking on a massive workload, but a man can dream, can’t he?
I think Morris plays a bigger role than most people expect and many are overlooking his history in the Shanahan system. I’m expecting a 200-carry, 800-yard, 9-touchdown performance from Alf in 2018. As far as Breida goes, I’m looking at a 140-carry, 600-yard stat line on the ground with another 60 receptions and 550-yards in the air with six total scores. Those totals would give Alf 140 fantasy points, and Breida a little over 200 points in PPR. If that plays out, given his current, late 12th round, ADP- Breida could be a league winner. I’d also try to move on from McKinnon if you have buyers. Odds are he never gets another shot a lead back role again.