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Vikings RB Jerick McKinnon could be a long-term waiver wire solution

Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire

As stated on the Fantasy Football Podcast, it’s amazing to think that only about one-quarter of Adrian Peterson owners decided to handcuff the 31-year-old All-Pro running back. That failure gives owners a great opportunity to add a quality running back this week on the waiver wire.

Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer announced Monday that Peterson has a torn meniscus. As bad as that sounds, it’s actually relatively good news. Peterson is still being evaluated, but if he had torn any other ligaments, he would have been done for the season.

This injury gives him a chance to return, but he will still miss time, which means the Vikings will turn to Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata in the backfield.

Fantasy owners can likely recall those names from the 2014 season when Peterson was out nearly the entire year due to his suspension. McKinnon and Asiata combined for 1,555 yards from scrimmage in Peterson’s absence.

The only problem, though, is they gave fantasy owners headaches by pretty much splitting the workload. Asiata had 882 yards from scrimmage while McKinnon had 673, and it was impossible week-to-week predicting which back would be the lead guy.

Fortunately, it might not be as hard this time. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune expects to see a “65-35” split with McKinnon receiving the majority of them until Peterson returns.

McKinnon is the more talented back, so that makes sense. Although Asiata caught more receptions two years ago, McKinnon is the better pass-catcher, so he should be particularly useful in PPR leagues.

But that doesn’t mean Asiata doesn’t have value. Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner clearly trusted him in third-and-long situations because of his pass-blocking abilities. That’s the main reason why he caught more passes than the 24-year-old two years ago – Asiata simply played more on third down because he was a better blocker.

The 29-year-old could also be the Vikings goal-line back. At 5-foot-11 and 229 pounds, Asiata has two inches and nearly 25 pounds on his fellow runner.

06 December 2015: Minnesota Vikings Running Back Matt Asiata (44) [15078] in action during a NFL game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Seattle Seahawks at Mall Of America Field in Minneapolis, MN. (Photo By Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire)

06 December 2015: Minnesota Vikings Running Back Matt Asiata (44) [15078] in action during a NFL game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Seattle Seahawks at Mall Of America Field in Minneapolis, MN. (Photo By Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire)

If Asiata does become the short-yardage guy, McKinnon’s value will certainly take a hit, but without a doubt, McKinnon is the guy to add. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry on 113 rushes two years ago and 5.2 yards per attempt on 52 carries last season. His career 4.9 yards per rush average is 1.4 yards better than Asiata’s, who averaged just 3.5 yards per carry in nine games as a starter in 2014.

More than likely, neither one of these guys is going to start for your team, so at this point, the wise move would be to add the back with the higher upside for the bench. That’s definitely McKinnon.

Keep in mind, the Vikings run offense has been atrocious through the first two games of 2016. Minnesota has 95 rushing yards on 50 rushing attempts, and Peterson averaged just 1.6 yards per attempt through roughly six and a half quarters.

Before the season, we expected Peterson’s value to take a little bit of a hit because defenses would stack guys in the box not worried about getting beat by the Vikings passing attack, but no one expected it to be this bad. It’s also not just because of what defenses are doing to Minnesota; the Vikings offensive line has vastly underachieved.

The run blocking must improve for either one of these backs to make a fantasy impact.

Even still, McKinnon is worth the roster spot, and he’s owned in just 24.4 percent of ESPN leagues. Asiata is owned in 0.4 percent, but there’s probably other running backs to consider before him.

Raiders running back DeAndre Washington is getting some looks in the Oakland backfield and Panthers back Fozzy Whittaker rushed for 100 yards and will start this Sunday. Both are better adds than Asiata and are owned in under 20 percent of leagues. Whittaker is probably the best immediate add of all four of these backs, but McKinnon has the best value long term because Jonathan Stewart could return in a week or two.

In conclusion, the back to own in Minnesota is McKinnon, and only consider adding Asiata in deeper formats.

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