The future Hall of Famer missed significant time for the second time in three seasons, playing in only three games in 2016 due to a series of lower-body injuries that should be considered extremely worrying in a 32-year-old running back with over 2,400 career carries on his ledger. Peterson never really got a chance last year to show whether he was still capable of gaining the huge chunks of real estate he got in his prime, but the Saints signed him to a fairly modest two-year deal to find out whether he had anything left. Listed behind Mark Ingram on the depth chart, Peterson could end up being little more than a change-of-pace option for New Orleans, but his reputation and pedigree should afford him more touches than a typical backup if he still retains enough of his legendary power and speed.
After a year almost completely wiped out by suspension, Peterson bounced back nicely in 2015, leading the NFL in the triple crown of RB counting stars: attempts, yards, touchdowns. His 4.5 YPC is a shade under his 4.9 career mark, but when someone's getting that much volume week-to-week — and plays a full 16 games —the minor efficiency hits don't bother you. Peterson has never been much of a receiver, so last year's haul was acceptable — heck, it might be an eyelash over reasonable expectations. Wrap it all up and it's a nifty return for an age-30 season. And now Peterson's a year older, like the rest of the world — and fantasy owners have been well trained to be suspicious of backs in this age pocket. That said, Peterson has been a career-long exception to the rule, and if he showed any signs of slippage last year, it was slight. If we reasonably discount the 2014 season from the computation, he's only missed nine games in eight seasons. Given Peterson's history of durability and the reasonable expectation that the O-Line will improve, we can sign off on another Pro Bowl-caliber year. Peterson is no longer the no-doubter No. 1 RB, but he's kept his spot in the first tier. Minnesota's preferred blueprint — play good defense, hide quarterback Teddy Bridgewater —also funnels nicely to Peterson's bottom line.
For the second time in four years, Peterson missed a significant portion of the season, but this time injury wasn't to blame. Peterson played one game last year before being sidelined the rest of the season for violating the league's personal-conduct policy. On the field, he still appeared to be at his peak, possessing the same elite blend of size, speed, burst, power and balance that he brought into the league, combined with the improved vision and pass-catching skills he's developed with experience. The last time Peterson had an extended break, he returned to post a 2,000-yard rushing season and 6.0 YPC, but the picture isn't quite as rosy in 2015. Lost in last season's scandal was that he was coming off groin surgery, and while Peterson likely has at least one more big season left in him, the downside of his career could be looming. He's 30 years old with 2,054 carries worth of wear and tear on his body.
While Peterson delivered his seventh double-digit touchdown total in his seven NFL seasons last year, there are some cracks starting to appear in the facade for the 6-1, 217-pound ballcarrier, who's entering his age-29 season. With a major knee surgery in his medical history, plus nagging foot and groin issues (the latter of which required surgery in January) that ruined the fantasy playoffs for many of his owners, AP may no longer be the lock he once was.
That said, AP is a fixture atop the Vikings' depth chart and remains one of the most talented backs in the game. Despite his injury issues, he certainly hasn't experienced any lingering effects from his 2011 ACL and MCL surgery, and the recovery from his groin surgery seems to be going well.
Nonetheless, more than a few stats point to cracks in the façade. Though Peterson remains a physical, downhill runner – he finished 2013 with the NFL's third-most broken tackles (42) – last year's 4.5 YPC was the second-lowest mark of Peterson's career, he sat out two games with injury, and he uncharacteristically put the ball on the ground five times. Further, PPR owners who enjoyed his 11 catches in the season's first three games suffered through a meager five receptions in his final five contests of the year, wrapping up a second consecutive season in which he averaged under six yards per reception. Of course, pass-catching has never truly been AP's calling card even though he's posted reliable catch rates throughout his career.
The Vikings will enter 2014 with continued issues at quarterback and a fairly mediocre receiving corps aside from the electric Cordarrelle Patterson (who'll steal rushing opportunities from AP here and there). Although subpar QB play has never held the superhuman Peterson back, and Minnesota owns one of the better offensive lines in the league, it's worth wondering whether his parade of injuries has reduced him to merely human – and whether that humanity will affect his goal-line work, as he rushed just seven times from inside the five-yard line last year.
After an MVP year in which he fell just nine yards shy of breaking Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record, Peterson set the bar high even for him. That he was able to do so barely eight months removed from reconstructive knee surgery bordered on the miraculous. And his 10-game romp to end the season during which he piled up 1,598 rushing yards at a whopping 6.8 YPC and 11 total scores might have been the greatest stretch by a back in modern NFL history.
While the lack of a viable Vikings passing game ensured defenses stacked the box against Peterson, he rendered the tactic impotent with a league-leading 1,047 yards after contact. Now 28 and with 1,754 career carries, Peterson has some mileage on his body, but it's hard to get overly concerned about that when Peterson only got stronger as the year wore on. And he's now 20 months removed from his knee surgery, so the joint should be back to full strength.
While Peterson is a competent pass catcher – he caught 40 balls last year, the second-highest total of his career – he doesn't excel in that area and will likely give up production to most of the other top backs, particularly in PPR formats.
Peterson was having his typical productive season until injuries struck last year. The first was an ankle sprain in Week 11 that cost him three games followed by a much more serious torn left ACL and MCL and meniscus damage. Moreover, the injury occurred so late in the year he didn’t have surgery until December 31. Most mortals would be a near lock to start 2012 on PUP, but Peterson plans on being ready for Week 1. All reports had his rehab going extremely well, and he even finished first running wind sprints with teammates in late April. A best-case scenario would still likely be a scaled down workload over the beginning of the season, especially with Toby Gerhart emerging as a capable alternative. Peterson remained the NFL’s best running back before going down, and while offseason reports have been positive, and he’s still in his prime, there are obvious concerns about an RB coming off major knee surgery such a short time ago. Consider Peterson a high-risk, high-reward pick.
Peterson’s numbers were down last season, when he finished with a career-low 1,298 rushing yards. Still, his YPC bounced back, and his ball security issues were corrected in a big way. Most of the drop in production can be pointed to a leg injury that cost him one game and decreased his usage, as he was given more than 17 carries in just one of the season’s final nine contests. Peterson has battled the injury-prone label since entering the league, but last season’s missed game was his first in the last three years. While nagging injuries plagued him over the second half, Peterson sill finished as the No. 3 fantasy back. Peterson remains the league’s most elite back, as he led the NFL in broken tackles for the second year in a row (he finished second in 2008), and his continued development as a receiver is terrific news for his fantasy value. His conversion rate at the goal line (9-for-18) was also third best in football. There was reason to worry about Minnesota’s quarterback situation until the team traded two sixth-round draft picks for Donovan McNabb. Nevertheless, the Vikings will continue to rely on Peterson to carry the offense, which is why he is both the safest and highest upside pick on the board.
Despite a big upgrade at quarterback,
Peterson’s YPC dropped to a career-low 4.4 last
season, but he more than made up for it by
improving greatly as a receiver and getting
more work at the goal line. Peterson scored an
NFL (and career) high 18 touchdowns, and he
more than doubled his previous-high with 43
catches. Moreover, his 10.1 yards-per-catch
tied for second-best in the league among
running backs and was a huge improvement
from his previous year. Peterson saw his big plays (rushes for 20- plus yards) drop from 20 in 2008 to 12 last season, but he remains plenty explosive, and his strength was utilized plenty, as his 42
carries inside the 10-yard line and 30 goal-line
rushes both led the NFL. However, fumbling remains a problem, as Peterson had the most lost (six) in the league for the second straight season. The good news for Peterson is that Minnesota has a handful of offensive weapons, so defenses can no longer stack eight men in the box to slow Peterson down. One area of concern is the fact that Minnesota used its
second-round pick to draft Toby Gerhart, who
immediately becomes the team’s RB2 with
Chester Taylor out of town. While Gerhart is a
threat to steal some goal-line work, Peterson
figures to be given even more responsibilities
on third downs, so increased numbers in the
passing game should be expected. While
Taylor’s workload continued to decline, he still
racked up 44 catches last season, and the
rookie Gerhart is unlikely to be trusted in passing situations. While it’s safe to assume the offense would take a step back should Brett Favre decide to retire, the Vikings still have one of the better offensive
lines in football, and the defense is among the
elite as well, so Peterson will be surrounded by
good teammates regardless. He should once
again dominate carries, and the fact he’s
becoming a complete back means a career-high
in yards from scrimmage could be in store,
especially if last year’s 4.4 YPC mark can creep
back up toward his career level (4.9).
Last year Peterson stayed healthy for all 16 games and led the NFL in rushing, yet it somehow all felt like a disappointment. That’s what happens when you follow a rookie campaign as impressive as Peterson’s. He saw his YPC drop from 5.6 to 4.8 and his touchdowns decline from 13 to 10 despite seeing 127 more touches. Still, 1,885 total yards with 10 scores is pretty good for what can be considered a letdown, and most encouraging of all was Peterson’s ability to stay healthy even with a full workload.
Peterson is a rare talent who might be both the fastest and strongest running back in the NFL. He’s almost never brought down at first contact and is lethal in the open field with tremendous breakaway speed. He easily led the league with 20 carries for 20-plus yards in 2008 while also converting a remarkable five of his nine goal-line attempts for scores. However, Peterson struggled mightily as a receiver, as he gained a paltry 6.0 yards per catch on his 21 receptions last season. He also needs to work on ball security – his nine fumbles were by far the most in the league.
The Vikings’ offensive line took a small step backward last season, but part of the problem was Bryant McKinnie opening the year with a four-game suspension. Chester Taylor is still around to spell Peterson, but he’s become nothing more than your typical backup, as this is clearly Peterson’s backfield. With Bernard Berrian, a healthy Sidney Rice and exciting rookie Percy Harvin, there’s talent in the receiving corps, but quarterback remains the big question on offense. Tarvaris Jackson impressed at times last season, but after he failed spectacularly during a loss to the Eagles in the Wild Card round, Minnesota traded for Sage Rosenfels, who’s the favorite to start Week 1. Rosenfels figures to be an upgrade, but he’s turnover-prone and is hardly a Pro Bowler. Meanwhile, there remains the possibility that Brett Favre could be brought into the mix.
Peterson is entering just his third year in the league and still has room to grow. He has fresh legs and plays for a team with a strong offensive line, solid defense and an improving passing attack. Peterson’s lack of receiving ability limits his upside somewhat, but there isn’t a bigger threat to rush for 2,000 yards in football, and it’s safe to expect more than nine goal-line carries in 2009 and hence more touchdowns. There’s still some risk for injury, but he made it through a 363-carry campaign last year relatively unscathed, and Minnesota will once again rely heavily on him in 2009.
Peterson took the league by storm in 2007,
totaling more than 1,600 yards with 13 touchdowns
in just 14 games. He finished second in
the league with 1,341 rushing yards despite starting
only nine contests, and his 5.6 YPC ranked
only behind situational rusher Jerious Norwood
among ballcarriers with more than 100 rushes.
Of some concern is Peterson's feast-or-famine
nature, as he went eight games with fewer than
80 yards rushing while averaging 159 rushing
yards in the six others, including setting the
single game NFL rushing record with 296 yards
against the Chargers.
Peterson's also in a great spot – the Vikings
have quite possibly the league's best offensive
line and improved their offense with the addition
of Bernard Berrian at wide receiver. Quarterback
Tarvaris Jackson is a question mark, as his
subpar 9:12 TD:INT ratio often allows opposing
defenses to focus on stopping the running game.
For all his upside, however, Peterson's not
without risk. He’s been injury-prone since college
and suffered a torn LCL last year, which
cost him two games and limited him the rest of
the season – he averaged just 2.7 YPC over the
final four contests while wearing a cumbersome
It’s also disconcerting Peterson received just
six goal-line carries last season, but Chester Taylor
only converted two of his nine rushes from
in close and has a success rate of just 24 percent
at the goal line over the past three years, so Peterson
should see the majority of touches near
paydirt. Additionally, Peterson's success rate on
red-zone rushes (7-of-20) was easily the best
in football. It also reveals massive touchdown
potential, considering Peterson scored 13 times
when given so few chances from in close. And
for those worried about Peterson's health issues,
having a clear-cut backup in Taylor can actually
be a positive, as that situation is muddled in San
Diego and Indianapolis.
There’s no doubting Peterson’s talent. He ran for 4,045 yards and 41 touchdowns in 31 games at Oklahoma and has the potential to be a franchise back with his combination of size, speed and strength. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.37 seconds, yet is 6-2, 217, and doesn’t shy away from contact. In fact, he invites it. Peterson’s aggressiveness is often compared to Eric Dickerson’s, but the upright style has also raised durability concerns. He dislocated his shoulder in 2004 (no games missed), suffered a high ankle sprain in 2005 (missed parts of three games) and endured a broken collarbone in 2006, forcing him out of action for the final seven weeks. He still finished with 1,012 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns last season, showing just how productive he can be when on the field.
Peterson set an NCAA freshman single-season rushing record with 339 carries, suggesting these past couple of injuries might be flukes, and doctors elected to let his broken collarbone heal on its own rather than opting for an additional surgery. Peterson joins a fairly crowded backfield and could begin the year as Chester Taylor’s backup. Merely an average running back (4.0 YPC), Taylor had 345 touches last season, but his backups averaged 5.0 behind a solid offensive line anchored by Steve Hutchinson, Matt Birk and Bryant McKinnie. As such, Peterson should be heavily involved from the start and will almost certainly take over the starting job at some point during the season.