The Quick look at Peterson
You're going to hear that Adrian Peterson is too old or too "old school" of a running back to help a team or have a fantasy impact. This is false.
Football is a difficult arena to expect the truth to manifest in full display. Peterson struggled during his final year in Minnesota due to poor line play and a poor scheme fit to what makes Peterson good. Peterson is at his best as a single back or I-formation back seven yards deep in the backfield and in an offense that is committed to running the football at a high volume.
He performed well in Arizona if you're not only looking at the box score but the actual execution on the field. He was fantasy-worthy in Arizona for the short time that Arizona's offensive line and quarterback remained healthy. This is the point that is lost most on the box-score jockeys who are cynical about Peterson's talent.
Here's the quick-hitting version of Peterson's potential fantasy impact in Washington:
- Washington's power run game is a strong fit for what Peterson does best.
- Peterson's ability to find cutbacks and manage eight- and nine-man boxes create play-action opportunities for Alex Smith.
- Jay Gruden has past success with power backs and likes to use two-tight end sets with Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis for run-pass binds.
- Peterson still has the short-area burst to hit creases and reach linebackers and safeties.
- Peterson still has the change of direction quickness and balance to make hard cuts and make even the quickest defensive backs miss in space.
- Peterson no longer has top-end speed, so don't expect breakaway runs. However, gains of 8-15 yards can be commonplace with good line play.
You're also going to read in some outlets that Peterson cannot run zone and that it makes him a questionable fit for the Washington offense. Peterson has been among the best ever at man blocking concepts like power, duo, trap, and counter, but some of the biggest plays of his career were the result of zone runs. It's possible that some folks who've said otherwise simply don't remember that far back.
Matt Bitonti has a solid grade for a healthy Washington offensive line. As long as that line remains healthy, Peterson is capable of 280-300 carries, 1,200 yards, and 10 touchdowns in this offense if the team fully embraces a power game.
It's more likely that Washington gradually ramps up Peterson's playing time in September and if he performs well, he could become the focal point of the ground game. A more modest and reasonable upside is that Peterson earns about 220-240 carries, 1,000-1,100 yards, and 6-8 touchdowns, which is still starter-worthy production.
The key will be determining how much Washington intends to use him. If they see him as depth, to spell Rob Kelly and Samaje Perine as a subpackage specialist, he'll only fulfill his late-round ADP as depth.
If the intention is to use him as the lead back, he'll be worth a pick between the 8th and 12th round and have the upside to exceed expectations as a fantasy starter. If this remains unclear when you draft, his best value is after the 12th round. Either way, expect some amount of caution with Washington's usage of Peterson early in the year to make sure he's in good enough football shape.
The deeper dive on Peterson's 2017 tape
When the Cardinals' scheme had a healthy offensive line and Carson Palmer for a short period of time, it was is a perfect fit for Peterson because he and David Johnson have a lot of similarities with their running styles. We saw this against the Buccaneers in 2017 when tackle D.J. Humphries returned to the lineup and it allowed Arizona to move Alex Boone to his natural position of right guard.
From the first carry, it was clear from the design of the play that Peterson as an I-back or single back with a quarterback under center is a great fit. When There's enough of a push downhill, Peterson will hit a crease as hard as any back in the game today (this is the one area where the Leonard Fournette-Peterson comparisons were accurate).
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