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Jerick McKinnon

Will Kansas City go back to McKinnon on Sunday?

I’m not sure what to make of Jerick McKinnon. He was phenomenal late in the season. In the playoffs, not so much.

The question is notable for those of us in single-use fantasy competitions (where you get to use each player only once in the playoffs). In my case, I started Isiah Pacheco in the last round, so I’m down to using either McKinnon or Kenneth Gainwell on Sunday (Miles Sanders will be my other starter, and I have no interest in taking a flyer on Clyde Edwards-Helaire or Boston Scott).

With Gainwell, they’ve been using him more recently. He carried the ball 26 times for 160 yards and a touchdown the last two weeks. He had more than 5 carries only once in the regular season. Gainwell (I think) could be an above-average third-down back eventually, but I don’t think the Eagles have interest in using him much in that capacity. In their offense, Jalen Hurts kind of serves as his own third-down back, taking off on runs when he doesn’t like what he sees downfield.

McKinnon hasn’t been much of a factor in the playoffs. He carried 11 times for 25 yards against Jacksonville, with no passes thrown his way. Against the Bengals, McKinnon carried 4 times for 1 yard, with 2 catches for 17 yards. Pacheco, on the other hand, caught a career-high 5 passes in the last game.

But McKinnon was good enough late in the season, that I’m thinking he’s the guy to roll with on Sunday. He caught touchdowns in each of the previous six games, with the team consistently drawing up plays for him around the goal-line. I don’t believe any other running back in league history has caught touchdown passes in six straight games. Helped along by that production, he was the 2nd-most productive running back (using PPR scoring) in the league in the final stretch of the season – way better than either Pacheco or Sanders.

RUNNING BACKS (Weeks 13-18)
Christian McCaffrey, S.F.101-505-427-262-3145.7
Jerick McKinnon, K.C.33-142-127-274-8122.6
Austin Ekeler, LAC76-361-627-225-0121.6
Cam Akers, LAR104-512-611-99-0108.1
Derrick Henry, Ten.102-490-312-120-091.0
Najee Harris, Pitt.114-449-312-87-189.6
Josh Jacobs, L.V.124-494-313-75-087.9
D'Andre Swift, Det.49-250-224-203-187.3
Saquon Barkley, NYG71-320-322-115-083.5
James Conner, Ari.62-306-319-129-080.5
Dalvin Cook, Min.86-332-213-135-177.7
Tony Pollard, Dall.57-246-316-127-177.3
Isiah Pacheco, K.C.73-375-39-100-074.5
Ezekiel Elliott, Dall.91-299-59-52-074.1
Nick Chubb, Cle.102-486-010-87-173.3
Latavius Murray, Den.84-402-214-62-072.4
Tyler Allgeier, Atl.89-483-26-52-071.5
Leonard Fournette, T.B.54-206-030-208-071.4
Travis Etienne, Jac.87-397-113-114-070.1
AJ Dillon, G.B.61-239-58-73-069.2
Rhamondre Stevenson, N.E.59-360-119-62-067.2
Rachaad White, T.B.55-195-021-110-263.5
Raheem Mostert, Mia.63-348-014-83-163.1
Jamaal Williams, Det.85-332-43-16-061.8
Miles Sanders, Phil.82-369-35-18-061.7
Aaron Jones, G.B.58-300-016-91-161.1
David Montgomery, Chi.55-221-213-78-160.9
Joe Mixon, Cin.52-209-119-127-058.6
Alvin Kamara, N.O.92-373-18-68-058.1
Chuba Hubbard, Car.54-290-19-135-057.5
Kenneth Walker III, Sea.93-437-08-49-056.6
James Cook, Buff.43-248-112-70-155.8
Cordarrelle Patterson, Atl.47-189-310-57-052.6
Devin Singletary, Buff.53-267-27-54-051.1
J.K. Dobbins, Balt.57-397-11-3-047.0
Zack Moss, Ind.72-352-14-12-046.4
Zonovan Knight, NYJ71-231-110-66-045.7
Jaylen Warren, Pitt.39-189-112-77-044.6
Samaje Perine, Cin.42-173-112-74-042.7
D'Onta Foreman, Car.77-351-11-1-042.2
Brian Robinson Jr., Was.79-330-03-33-039.3
Marlon Mack, Den.14-77-17-94-136.1
Alexander Mattison, Min.29-123-34-17-036.0
Jeff Wilson, Mia.45-183-16-36-033.9
Joshua Kelley, LAC44-179-15-29-031.8
Kenneth Gainwell, Phil.15-72-013-112-031.4
DeeJay Dallas, Sea.21-119-010-84-030.3
Kareem Hunt, Cle.30-107-012-55-028.2
Pierre Strong, N.E.9-95-17-42-026.7
Dameon Pierce, Hou.40-151-13-22-026.3
Boston Scott, Phil.23-109-22-9-025.8

I would think the play on Sunday is to use McKinnon, hoping that he re-emerges as a pass-catching option. I think Philadelphia is the stronger of these teams, with a lot more overall talent and depth. If the Eagles bottle up the run or get a lead, it could push Kansas City into playing in more of a catchup-type mode. And if it goes down that way, I would think McKinnon will play more than Pacheco, catching check-down balls as Patrick Mahomes tries to avoid being pummeled by that pass rush.

With Gainwell (who I see as the No. 4 back this week), I think you would be playing for the blowout, with Kansas City simply unable to contain that running game. I think that’s an iffier option. Note that while he carried the ball 26 times in the last two games, he had just 3 carries in the first half of each of those games. And while Gainwell’s hands are fine, that just don’t use him much in that regard (he caught 1 pass for 9 yards in each of the two playoff games).

It will be McKinnon for me.

—Ian Allan

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