After being drafted in the 3rd round in 2014, McKinnon became a valuable piece of the Vikings offense before departing to California. Operating as the secondary back to Adrian Peterson or even Dalvin Cook (for a brief stint), McKinnon provided energy as a receiving threat and change of pace back. We all know how his career has now developed as McKinnon finds himself as the likely starting RB in Shanahan’s offense.
Everything points towards Dalvin Cook being able to handle a feature back job. However, they are still likely to mix in something else occasionally. Latavius Murray is a turd and given his salary, it’s unlikely that Latavius will be around long-term. As such, I wouldn’t be stunned to see UDFA Roc Thomas emerge into McKinnon’s former role.
The 5’10” 198 pound back entered college football as the number 2 RB in the nation. Thomas originally played at Auburn for 2 years before transferring to Jacksonville State. During his brief time at Auburn, Thomas faces stiff competition for snaps from Cameron Artis Payne, Peyton Barber, Corey Grant, and Kerryon Johnson. Once he got to Jacksonville State, Thomas exploded and finally started to reach his potential in his Senior season. He won the Ohio Valley Conference OPOY in 2017 after rushing 178 times for 1,065 yards and 13 TDs (5.98 YPC).
What I love is Thomas’ match with the Vikings’ zone blocking scheme. It’ll allow his short area explosiveness and elusiveness to shine. Thomas has high expectations for himself and is one of those guys with a chip on his shoulder after being a high recruit in high school, but undrafted from college. He has something to prove.
Thomas has some promising athletic potential. At the combine, he ran a 4.56 40-yard dash which isn’t mind-blowing, but his explosion measurements were solid. He produced a 10’5” broad jump and 35.5 inch vertical. Thomas also believes that he has the skills to be on the field for all 3 downs. He said, “I’m a balanced back. I can run the ball. I can catch the ball out of the backfield. I can get the first down on third down. I’m pretty much a diverse back and I can do anything that any team needs me to do. You got to be able to be diverse and you got to be able to adapt. If I get in an offense where I have to either be a power back or I need to be a speed back, so be it. That’s what I need to it, I’m going to have to do it.”
One issue Thomas has had in his career, which was detrimental to his Auburn tenure, was ball security. With 9 1/8-inch hands, he has been prone to fumbling.
Currently, Thomas tends to go undrafted in most rookie drafts (4 round). For a guy that can slide into a number 2 role so early in his career, I feel as though Thomas deserves a punt as a 4th round guy. It’s very rare for UDFAs to ever reach an RB2 level. However, if Dalvin gets hurt again, his value will rise faster than other UDFAs due to the lack of depth that Minnesota possesses in the backfield.