Adrian Peterson is the best Running Back in the NFL, bar none. Purple Jesus has speed, agility, toughness, vision, heart, and is one of the best overall players this league has seen in a long time. This past season he ran for over 2,000 yards, joining a group of only 6 others to do so. Adrian is as close to consensus number one overall pick in re-draft leagues as we have had in a long time. And I understand why; he’ll likely have another top-5 fantasy season coming up this fall.
But what about 2015? Or the season after?
The reality is, that if I’m an owner of Adrian Peterson in a keeper/dynasty league right now, I’m going to try like hell to ship him to another team for all that he’s worth.
I don’t see the reigning MVP turning into a colossal fantasy bust, but I don’t see him improving either. AP just surpassed 1700 carries last year and based on how great running backs before him performed after surpassing that mark, AP-owners will likely be faced with a disappointing year. An injury also wouldn’t be out of the question, especially considering AP already once-torn left ACL.
What makes 1,700 the magic number? I’m not sure, but I saw a severe decline in stats from a few running backs, namely O.J. Simpson, Eric Dickerson and Shaun Alexander, after they hit that benchmark.
It’s been a while since I really dove into a stat-sheet headfirst. That being said, I’m about to do a double-handspring off a diving board… …headfirst.
Adrian Peterson is the premiere, freakishly-athletic, yet intelligent running back of this decade. So, I found 2 other men-among-boys of their time whose stats will be compared to AP’s: Eric Dickerson and O.J. Simpson. Dickerson holds the single season rushing record at 2,105 yards, a mark almost broken by Peterson this past season. But before Dickerson ran wild with the Los Angeles Rams, O.J. Simpson had several Hall of Fame quality years. He was the very first running back to rush for 2,000 or more yards, rushing for 2,003 in 1973… …. In 14 games.
O.J. missed only 7 games in his first 7 seasons combined. He compiled 1,707 carries with a 4.6 YPC average and 51 rushing touchdowns. The 1973 MVP of the league racked up 279 fantasy points that year based on standard scoring. But hey, it’s not like they had fantasy football in the early 70’s, right?
What did O.J. do in the following 4 seasons after hitting that 1,700 carry milestone? He missed 12 games, dropped his YPC average to 4.1 and scored a measly 12 touchdowns. Long story short: the explosive Simpson tailed off. Big time. The wear and tear was too much; Simpson lost his explosiveness on the field and in the box score. No longer was he a fantasy asset.
If you fast-forward 10 years from Simpson’s MVP season, you’d find a rookie running back for the Los Angeles Rams who would go on to lead the league in rushing yards four times and carries thrice. Eric Dickerson was the cream of the crop ever since his days at Sealy High School in Texas.
In HIS first 5 NFL seasons, Dickerson had a solid YPC of 4.8 and an astounding number of touchdowns with 61.
Unfortunately, Eric also toted the rock 1,748 times in that span. The ol’ tires had a lot of wear and tear on them.
Dickerson’s average YPC over his next 4 seasons decreased by a whole yard. He also saw his touchdown rate reduce by 35%. As opposed to his first 5 seasons where he had 5- 1,000 yard-plus rushing seasons. Eric hit the four-digit mark only twice in the remainder of his career.
I know that I’ve really dug deep into the NFL RB Time Capsule for my first two examples, so let’s use a RB that played in the 21st century to emphasize my point on…. “The Curious Case of 1700 NFL Carries”.
Shaun Alexander was the cat’s pajamas in 2005 (whatever that means). He was named MVP of the league that year after stampeding for 1,880 yards and 27 rushing touchdowns, which is the 2nd most rushing TDs in a single season of all-time. Not surprisingly, he also led the league in attempts with 370, bringing his total number of carries to 1,717.
Ah, yes. Another resident of 1700 Past Your Prime Lane.
In Shaun’s 3 seasons after hitting 1,700 carries, he played in only 27 games, rushed for 1,636 yards, with 11 touchdowns. Those numbers are simply awful, considering the way that Alexander played in the many years prior. Shaun’s work-load caught up to him and slowly ended his tenure as an effective back in the NFL.
Even the best of the BEST running backs slump after hitting 1,700 carries. Now let’s look at where Adrian Peterson is at right now and what his outlook is for the future.
All Day has had quite the career. He’s had a double digit number of touchdowns in all of his 6 seasons, and his 8,849 rushing yards are the most by any rusher since 2007. His 1,754 career attempts really do alarm me more than before after looking at how Shaun Alexander, O.J. Simpson and Eric Dickerson performed post-1,700 attempts.
Let’s not forget about that torn left ACL Peterson had surgically repaired, either.
Peterson my be a mutant. He may be bionic. He may literally be a robot from the future and football is just his “front”. But ask anyone who watched OJ or Dickerson in their primes and they will tell you the same thing about them. Even the Bionic Alien Mutants can be destroyed.
My projection for Adrian Peterson for the upcoming season is in the ballpark of 1,500 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. That’d give him 240 standard league points. It’s a bit of a drop off from 2012 but I find it quite reasonable. Especially when you consider that this is a make or break season for Quarterback Christian Ponder; he’ll get plenty more opportunities to sling the rock to Kyle Rudolph, Cordarelle Petterson and Greg Jennings.
Make no mistake about it: Adrian Peterson is an elite running back in fantasy AND reality football. But now is likely the last chance for you to sell high, before it’s too late.
After all, history does tend to repeat itself.
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