Prior to tearing his ACL and MCL, Adrian Peterson was already in the discussion for being the best running back in the NFL. Now, it’s difficult to argue for anyone else in his stead.
Little has changed in terms of his running style, but his efficiency has improved greatly. After averaging 5.6 yards per carry as a rookie, Peterson averaged a healthy 4.6 yards per carry over his last four years. This year, less than a season removed from an injury that many called “career-threatening,” Peterson is averaging 6.0 ypc. To greater appreciate this phenomenon, consider that Peterson didn’t even top 5.7 ypc in three seasons at the University of Oklahoma.
You may wonder if this increased efficiency comes from a smaller workload. This would be incorrect in Peterson’s case—he’s averaging 20.4 carries per game this season and has received a larger workload just once, in 2008. Peterson’s also never been more involved in the passing game. He’s on pace to catch 47 passes, which would be a new career-high.
Peterson is on pace to miss the 2,000 rushing yard club by just 30 yards—but if you take a look at his game log, it’s due to a slow start. Peterson topped 100 rushing yards just once in his first six games, compiling an average of 83.2 rushing yards per game. Since then, he’s been a man on a mission, having topped 100 rushing yards in all seven games—and averaging an absurd 157.3 rushing yards per game.
In one of the great stretches for any running back in NFL history, Peterson has 1,101 rushing yards and eight touchdowns in his last seven games. To put this in perspective, remember that only six players ever have rushed for 2,000 yards in a season. If this seven-game streak is multiplied into a full 16-game season, it comes out to an insane 2,517 rushing yards. That would obliterate Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record by over 400 yards.
Peterson’s season is starting to look like a historical benchmark and if he can compile 400 rushing yards over his last three games, he will join a historical club. By joining the 2,000-yard club, Peterson will join exclusive company and be mentioned as one of the best running backs ever.
As the best running back of this generation, I hope fans will remember Peterson’s incredible physical dominance on inside runs, his full willingness to hit the hole or a member of the other team at full speed. Peterson would use that strategy until he found the perfect time to cut outside and gallop like a horse to the end zone. Until Peterson, I had never seen a running back literally carry a team on his back with everyone on the opposing defense looking to stop him. Despite all the amazing things he does, I will always remember the pure will Adrian Peterson imposes every time he steps on a football field.
In terms of fantasy football, there isn’t a better player in the game. Draft Adrian Peterson any chance you have next season, including the No. 1 pick overall. Christian Ponder‘s deficiencies will continue to provide Peterson with monster workloads and there isn’t a better player with the ball in his hands. Luckily for fantasy owners this season, Peterson wasn’t drafted as a top pick—many grabbed him in the second round. Fantasy leagues this year will be won for that reason.
Combining two top running backs, in a season with this kind of scarcity, is a recipe for fantasy success. While two great running backs on your fantasy team is fantastic, Peterson himself is carrying plenty of fantasy squads across the country. Perhaps it’s this simple: Adrian Peterson is the main ingredient for a fantasy championship—don’t bet against him.
Mike Braude is a fantasy contributor for TDdaily. Follow him on Twitter @BraudeM.