Fantasy Football News

Friday, December 21, 2012

Adrian Peterson's Magical Season: How Does he Stack up Against the League's All-time Greats?

It's no secret that the Minnesota Vikings' 27-year old running back Adrian Peterson (also referred to as "AP" or "AD," which is short for "All Day") is just 294 yards away from further immortalizing himself within Pro Football history by breaking Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing yards record of 2,105.

With two games left to play Peterson, less than a year removed from surgery to repair a torn left ACL and MCL, is set to become just the 7th player in history to rush for over 2,000 yards in a given season.

Now I know I've said this here on the All-Out Blitz numerous times, and you may start to get tired of hearing about it. But I have yet to dedicate an entire article on Peterson's historic season. And that's exactly what I plan to do: stack AD's 2012 season, and career for that matter, against some of the great ones from season's past.
Not only will I compare 2012 to Dickerson's famed 1984 season among others, but I will also be comparing Peterson's 6-year career to the first six seasons of a couple of Hall of Famers and soon-to-be Hall of Famers.

First off, I'd like to point out that just one season in his so-far illustrious pro career has ended without 1,000 yards rushing, which happened to be last season (970 yards, 12 TDs in 12 games) just prior to receiving his bionic left knee––just kidding, his knee isn't actually robotic, right?

First comparison is the obvious one: Eric Dickerson in 1984.

Eric Dickerson--1984, Los Angeles Rams
Second season in pros, 24-years old

16 games: 379 rushing attempts, 2,105 yards, 14 TDs, Long: 66 yards
5.6 Y/C, 131.6 Y/G on 23.7 A/G

- - - - -

Adrian Peterson--2012, Minnesota Vikings
Sixth season in pros, 27-years old

14 games: 289 rushing attempts, 1,812 yards, 11 TDs, Long: 82 yards
6.3 Y/C, 129.4 Y/G, 20.6 A/G

**Dickerson through first 14 games: 326 rushing attempts, 1,792 yards, 11 TDs

The key to the above comparison is Dickerson's stat-line through the first 14 games. Looking at that and you can tell Peterson is well on his way to surpassing Eric on the list of most impressive rushing seasons of all-time. In terms of both individual and team, Peterson's got the edge. The Rams finished the season at 10-6 with a playoff berth thanks largely to the on-field production from Dickerson.

Much like the Vikings this season, the Rams had an average-at-best quarterback completing 50% of his passes and throwing 20 passes a game with the 25-year old Jeff Kemp. Los Angeles was a middle-of-the-pack defense and was a playoff team based solely on Dickerson's success.

Minnesota is sitting at 8-6 and in line for a wild card spot if they can manage to win out and end the season at 10-6. Second-year quarterback Christian Ponder has underachieved this season after showing promise as a rookie last season. His 2,527 yards, 14 TDs (12 INT) and a 78.6 rating has been just enough to get the Vikes by in terms of passing. It's been AD's career-high 1,812 yards and 11 TDs that has put Minnesota in playoff contention coming out of the North.

With opposing defenses keying in on stopping Peterson and the team's running game, they have still failed to slow down this Vikings offense. Peterson has been on a roll ever since Week 7 against the Cardinals, rushing for 100+ yards for eight consecutive games––150+ in six of those games and 200+ in two. Also over that 8-game span AD has combined for nine of his 11 touchdowns on the ground and Minnesota has put up 34 or more points on two occasions.

A 2-0 finish to the season would put the Vikings in the playoffs and match the regular season record of the 10-6 Rams. Not to mention, if Adrian does break the single-season record he would likely achieve it with much less carries and would have put up the greatest single-season for a running back in NFL history. By far.

I never even mentioned the fact that Dickerson fumbled the ball a total of 14 times during the '84 regular season. Peterson? Just four fumbles through his 14 starts this season. So unless he fumbles five teams in each of his last two games (not likely) he will have beaten Dickerson in that category as well. All Dickerson has left is his 107 yards and 1 TD in LA's 16-13 NFC Wild Card loss that season.

Peterson is just 294 yards in the final two games away from posting the best season by a running back ever. But where does that leave him in terms of his first six seasons as a pro? Here he is next to some legends:

First six seasons in NFL (sorted by yards gained; Hall of Famer; Leader among the 6):
*Eric Dickerson, 88 starts: 2,136 attempts, 9,915 yards, 75 TD, Long: 85; 4.6 Y/C, 110.2 Y/G
*LaDainian Tomlinson, 95 starts: 2,050 starts, 9,176 yards, 100 TD, Long: 85; 4.5 Y/C, 96.6 Y/G
*Emmitt Smith, 91 starts: 2,007 attempts, 8,956 yards, 96 TD, Long: 75; 4.5 Y/C, 96.3 Y/G
*Barry Sanders, 87 starts: 1,763 attempts, 8,672 yards, 62 TD, Long: 85; 5.0 Y/C, 97.4 Y/G
*Adrian Peterson, 80 starts: 1,695 attempts, 8,564 yards, 75 TD, Long: 82; 5.1 Y/C, 98.4 Y/G
*Walter Payton, 83 starts: 1,865 attempts, 8,386 yards, 65 TD, Long: 76; 4.5 Y/C, 94.2 Y/G

Considering that among the group of six listed above––consisting of four current Hall of Fame members and one first ballot Hall of Famer––Peterson has the best yards per carry average through six seasons, I'd say he's in pretty good shape.
Averaging 1,427.3 rushing yards per season, Peterson needs just six more of his "average" seasons and he'll be an automatic lock for the hall and in sight of Emmitt Smith's league record 18,355 rushing yards all-time. Though he's not quite to Dickerson's near-1,000 yards through six seasons, or LT's 100 TDs, Peterson has a lot to be proud of, ranking with the big boys. With two games left to go in his first six career seasons, Peterson can surpass Sanders' 8,672 yards and possibly even reach 80 rushing TDs.

Being on pace and ahead of guys such as the greats Barry Sanders and Walter Payton at this point in his career says a lot for a guy of Peterson's caliber, and it's really scary when you think about what he can accomplish before he hangs up his cleats.

He's got an eye-popping combination of size, speed and power. He's a nightmare in the open field for defenders and no matter which way you slice it, we could be witnessing the best this league has ever seen.

Embrace it.

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