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Spotlight: Adrian Peterson

posted by Jason Wood on Aug 15th

Jason Wood's thoughts

I'm not sure what I can say about Adrian Peterson that's going to influence your view of the player. Either you're convinced he can sustain his blistering career pace - in which case you know he's only going to be yours if you have a top 2 or 3 pick - or you think this is the year the wheels fall off. If you fall into the latter side of the ledger, I've got nothing for you because other than dumb luck, I just don't see what the film or the stats could show you that would warrant such a pessimist view.

Peterson is a beast. We all know that. His situation changes on the margin from year to year, but at this point he's just about the safest RB in fantasy - if there's such a thing. Peterson has dealt with turmoil, he's had years without a handcuff, years with someone to share time, he's had years where his line was below par, and years that the line could run block with the best of them. He's had good quarterbacking, bad quarterbacking, and everything in between. If you were to map a probability tree of possible situations for a RB to deal with, Peterson has dealt with them all. And he's been a fantasy star throughout.

Will 2011 be the year Peterson finishes as the #1 Fantasy RB?
Hard to believe, but it's true. In standard scoring formats, Adrian Peterson has never been the #1 player.

Year Rush RuYds YPR Recs RecYds YPRec TDs FPTs RBRank Comment
2007 238 1,341 5.6 19 268 14.1 13 239 RB3 Tomlinson #1, Westbrook #2
2008 363 1,760 4.8 21 125 6.0 10 249 RB3 De. Williams #1, Turner #2
2009 314 1,383 4.4 43 436 10.1 18 290 RB2 Chris Johnson #1
2010 283 1,298 4.6 36 341 9.5 13 242 RB3 A. Foster #1, P.Hillis #2

The important thing to note is that ever though there have been RBs that scored more fantasy points than Peterson in each of his four seasons; no one has come close to MAINTAINING the consistent top-end productivity that "All Day" has given the Vikings and fantasy owners worldwide.

Most Fantasy Points by RB (2007-2010)

Rank First Last RuYds RuTD Recs RecYds RecTD FPTs
1 Adrian Peterson 5,788 52 119 1,170 2 1,019.8
2 Maurice Jones-Drew 4,307 41 189 1,663 5 872.0
3 LaDainian Tomlinson 4,228 44 184 1,423 4 858.0
4 Chris Johnson 4,598 34 137 1,008 4 788.6
5 Frank Gore 4,111 24 194 1,667 8 769.8
6 Thomas Jones 4,729 34 88 604 3 755.3
7 Steven Jackson 4,710 22 174 1,347 2 753.8
8 Michael Turner 4,257 40 27 177 - 683.4
9 Brandon Jacobs 3,758 33 54 453 3 637.1
10 Brian Westbrook 2,883 21 185 1,504 12 636.7

Fantasy Points per Game by RB (2007-2010)

Rank First Last YRs G FPTs FPT/Gm
1 Arian Foster 2009--2010 22 382.8 17.4
2 Chris Johnson 2008--2010 47 788.6 16.8
3 Adrian Peterson 2007--2010 61 1,019.8 16.7
4 Maurice Jones-Drew 2007--2010 61 872.0 14.3
5 Frank Gore 2007--2010 54 769.8 14.3
6 LaDainian Tomlinson 2007--2010 61 858.0 14.1
7 Steven Jackson 2007--2010 55 753.8 13.7
8 Matt Forte 2008--2010 48 623.1 13.0
9 Joseph Addai 2007--2010 50 636.0 12.7
10 Clinton Portis 2007--2010 45 567.7 12.6

Key Talking Points

What might Adrian Peterson do behind a great offensive line? - As I said earlier, Peterson has run behind different O-line configurations, and produced no matter what. Last year might have been the most impressive, as Peterson averaged 4.6 yards per rush despite running behind a starting 5 that left a lot to be desired:

  • LT Bryant McKinnie - The Mountain was a stalwart (played nearly every snap) last year, but graded below league average as a run blocker according to Pro Football Focus. He was released this preseason after weighing in at nearly 400 pounds
  • LG Steve Hutchinson & Chris DeGeare - Hutch missed 5 games and, while he still produced as a pass protector, had a negative run blocking grade. DeGeare was a mess in Hutch's stead
  • C John Sullivan - Sully graded out as the 7th worst rung blocking center
  • RG Anthony Herrera & Ryan Cook - Neither Cook nor Herrera graded out as above average run blockers, according to PFF
  • RT Phil Loadholt - Loadholt also played most of the Vikings offensive snaps, but graded out as the 6th worst right tackle (5th worst based purely on run blocking)

With every Vikings offensive lineman grading out as below average in 2010, it's a minor miracle that Peterson was able to live up to his 1st round expectations. Are things shaping up for improvement in 2011?

Projected 2011 Offensive Line:

  • LT Charlie Johnson - Johnson was abysmal as a pass blocker last year (for Indianapolis) and was just about league average as a run blocker. The Vikings don't seem to have a better alternative right now, even though they may wish they did
  • LG Steve Hutchinson - No change
  • C John Sullivan - No change
  • RG Chris DeGeare (Anthony Herrera is coming off an ACL injury) - No change
  • RT Phil Loadholt - No change

Whoa nelly, there's not much hope for improvement based on the personnel. One ray of hope, however, is Leslie Frazier's hiring of Jeff Davidson as the new offensive line coach. Davidson is part of the Bill Belichick coaching tree, and has experience as an offensive coordinator in Carolina and Cleveland. He should help the offensive line play better as a unit, but he many need a season of upgraded personnel before the impact will be felt.

McNabb and Musgrave's Impact
Donovan McNabb is taking over in Minnesota - a year later than many thought he should. When Brad Childress (his OC in Philadelphia) was the head coach, it made all the sense in the world. But now Leslie Frazier is in charge, and Bill Musgrave will call the plays. Nevertheless, McNabb comes aboard and - at the very least - should be more comfortable in this system than he was in Mike and Kyle Shanahan's. We may not know how well McNabb will play, but we do know that he's a reliable veteran QB who will absolutely throw to Peterson out of the backfield whenever the downfield reads are covered.

Musgrave intends for Peterson to have a "much bigger role in the downfield passing attack." We always have to take coach's proclamations with a grain of salt, but IF they do make good on this promise, it could be the X-factor that turns Peterson from a Top 3 fantasy RB into the #1 fantasy runner. For those wondering, Peterson has rarely been used as a vertical threat:

2008 - 1 target beyond 9 yards from the line of scrimmage (incomplete)
2009 - 2 targets beyond 9 yards from the line of scrimmage (1 catch, 14 yards)
2010 - 1 target beyond 9 yards from the line of scrimmage (1 catch, 25 yards)


  • Peterson has finished 3rd or better in each of his four seasons in the NFL, and leads all RBs (by a wide margin) in fantasy points scored over that span
  • Leslie Frazier should bring stability and focus that Brad Childress couldn't (the team appeared to have quit on him), and Jeff Davidson should help improve the offensive line -- which underachieved last year
  • Peterson -- already a yardage and TD machine -- has been promised a larger role in the passing game, particularly downfield


  • Peterson only fumbled once in 2010, but has struggled with putting the ball on the turf in prior seasons
  • The offensive line all graded out below par last year, and four of the five return (and Charlie Johnson may not be much of an improvement over Bryant McKinnie)
  • It's not clear whether Donovan McNabb and his WR corps will be able to stretch the field, which will guarantee that Peterson will continue to face 8-man fronts all too frequently

Final thoughts

Adrian Peterson is an amazing talent, and it's no surprised that he was voted as one of the 10 best players (at any position) by his peers this year in the NFL Network poll. He will be a top 3 fantasy pick in every draft, and will probably go 1st in a majority of them. I can't argue with taking him that high, and can only hope I'm lucky enough to land a pick high enough to roster All Day in a few of my leagues.

Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

bigmiiiike said:

So difficult to predict AP's stats at this point with so much up in the air regarding free agency. If they don't bring in a McNabb at QB, and lose Rice in free agency, it could be a long season for the Viking offense. On the other hand, McNabb + Rice probably means a prolific offense where Peterson could reach 15+ TDs. At this point, I'd say the odds favor them not making a QB move, and losing Rice. I think we'll see Ponder sooner rather than later, and just about each of Peterson's stats (except carries) will take a hit.

griff321 said:

Problem number one is a balanced offense. You're not going to see it with Kolb, McNabb, Ponder, Webb. or some other popular FA. A FA QB in year one of a new offense, coaches, and less time to work on it all because of the lockout is not a recipe for success. Then the Viking's O-line is just bad at run blocking. I don't think that it'd take a ton for them to be competitive and make AD the #1RB, but unless a few guys make massive leaps in skill then it's just not going to happen with the status quo. On top of all that the NFC North defenses look TOUGH. It's going to be hard sledding all year long.

fightingillini said:

MIN would be dumb not to try and bring in a McNabb or try and trade for Orton. They can't just trot out Ponder as a rookie. If they do bring in a solid veteran QB, Peterson will have another huge year.

adrenaline said:

It seems a lot of people are down on ADP as if he wasn't good before 2009. The Vikings ran the ball more before Favre & ADP benefited from it. To me he's one of the safest RBs.

Adrian Peterson projections

Jason Wood325150015433951
Message board consensus321139613383361