Making the Case
Case 3:

by Hayden Gibson
5/26/2016

Adrian Peterson| RB | #28 | Minnesota Vikings

Height: 6'1"

Weight: 220

Bye Week: 6

2015 Stats:

Attempts: 327

Rusing Yards: 1,485

Rushing Touchdowns: 10

Standard Rank:  6th

PPR Rank:  6th

Adrian Peterson Outside the Top 5 Running Backs

Adrian Peterson has been most consistent running back since being drafted in 2007.  If you exclude the 2014 season which ended after one game due to suspension he has scored at least 10 touchdowns in every season.  There are only a few negative things you can say about AP one being his age as he will be 31 this season.  The other in my opinion is his lack of involvement in the passing game.

Possibly the biggest concern everyone should have is his age.  NFL running backs typically lose a step or two after they hit the age of 29.  There have been several outliers in history such as Tiki Barber and Curtis Martin.  The best comparison to AP will probably be Curtis Martin since Martin was a bell cow back his rookie year and Barber was somewhat a late bloomer.  Martin had arguably his best season when he was 31 with the stat line of 371-1697-12.  Yes this only makes it seem like AP could put up monster numbers this year I know.  The very next season is what I want to focus on when Martin fell off the map and only averaged 3.3 yards per carry which was a career low.  Even the great LaDainian Tomlinson had his decline come out of nowhere.  LT at one point was the safest pick in fantasy football as he was nearly a lock to be the top scoring RB in the league.  In 2008 he showed a decline in production.  In no way am I saying he was an awful RB to own since he still put up RB1 numbers but in fantasy drafts that year he was receiving consideration as the #1 pick.  You were basically picking between he and a young Adrian Peterson.  A lot of people went with LT because he was the safest pick in the draft and no body seen a scenario where LT plays 16 games and finishes outside the top 5 at RB.  LT ended up finishing as the 7th ranked RB in standard scoring and only 8 points separated him and the 10th ranked RB.  Sometimes the "safest" pick ends up being a letdown.  For weeks I have seen people calling AP the safest RB in the draft.  His production and uncertainty surrounding other RBs suggest that he is in fact the safest choice but it seems that people are ignoring his age and heavy use.  When the age and heavy use arguments are brought up people frequently say "well AP is different" and the same could be said of LT when his decline began.  I ignored a running back's age last year when I spent a 2nd round pick on Marshawn Lynch and I took note that he was 29 but argued the fact that it was Marshawn Lynch not a Jonathan Stewart type of back this is Beast Mode.  I think Lynch had one or two productive weeks then was useless.  Even though the "AP is different" argument is an easy one to make his age has to be considered a big red flag.  History has shown that tailbacks over the age of 29 can fall off at any given time.  The LT case should be a great comparison since it happened to a very special player and really came out of nowhere.

So in order to argue the point that AP is not a top 5 RB I need at least 5 backs to rank ahead of him.  The first would be my number 1 ranked RB Le'Veon Bell.  Bell in my opinion is the best all-purpose back and happens to play on the league's most explosive offense.  Last season he had his season cut short after another knee injury.  Playing in only 6 games Bell averaged 13.83 points per game.  Last season AP played all 16 games and averaged 13.56 points per game.  It should also be noted that the Steelers big three (Big Ben, Bell, and Brown) were not on the field at the same time for a whole game last year.  Bell returned from suspension in week 3 which was the week Big Ben suffered an injury that sidelined him until their week 8 matchup with the Bengals.  Bell suffered his season ending knee injury early in the second quarter of this game.  Bell should be ready to go this season and with both him and Big Ben healthy I see Le'Veon having a monster year.  He is after all the best all-purpose back on the league's best offense.  

The second RB I would list is Todd Gurley who in a lot of people's opinion is the second coming of AP and the talent is there to back up that opinion.  In fact one could argue that Gurley is the favorite to win the rushing title this year.  He accumulated around 1,100 rushing yards last season and played basically 12 games last season (excluding his debut when he saw very limited work).  Gurley will have the opportunity to play in a completely revamped offense and a rookie quarterback.  Typically a rookie quarterback's best friends tend to be tight ends and running backs.  It is easy to envision the Rams heavily relying on Gurley this year so 20+ carries per game is not out of the question.  For a guy that just averaged 4.83 yards per carry that kind of volume could lead to a huge season.  So when it comes to running backs you would take over AP I think Gurley is an easy choice.  So that is two down I just need three more.

From this point on it gets a bit difficult and I will probably ruffle some feathers.  My next back I would take over AP would be David Johnson.  I was one of the guys that boarded the Andre Ellington band wagon early and failed to get off when the Cards drafted DJ.  I remained on the Ellington hype train, drafting him in the 4th or 5th round of most of my drafts last season thinking I had gotten a steal.  After he got injured I refused to buy into the David Johnson hype and figured that backfield would be a full blown committee with Chris Johnson being the only guy worth starting.  Twelve total touchdowns and 1,000 total yards later I was dead wrong and wished I would have jumped on the opportunity to own DJ.  This guy has a nose for the end zone and is built to be a three down back.  He is big for a running back (6'1" 224lbs) and happens to be a natural pass catcher.  Call me crazy but I think David Johnson could have a Matt Forte like career and he is paired with my favorite coach in the league that will commit to Johnson being a bell cow type of back.  If I had to rank running backs based strictly on their upside I think Johnson would rank 2nd just behind Bell.  He has potential to put up numbers similar to Bell's 2014 season.  I think Johnson's upside makes him a worthy candidate to be selected over AP.

Now here is where it gets real interesting my fourth running back I would take ahead of Peterson is who a lot of you will label as "overhyped" and that is the one and only Ezekiel Elliott.  I have done a piece on why I would consider taking him as the top RB so if you would like to see what kind of madness is in that article please click here.  I will keep this short and sweet on Elliott.  He is a very talented football player who is built to be a three down back in the NFL.  He just so happened to of landed in the perfect spot after Dallas drafted him.  The Cowboys made Darren McFadden look like a solid RB1 in fantasy and McFadden is nowhere near the running back Elliott is.  I have seen a lot of people mention a possible committee in Dallas but I think the idea of a committee went out the window after the Cowboys made their selection in the 1st round of the draft.  Elliott is actually the guy I would rank behind Bell and Johnson in terms of upside.  The talent and situation could lead to huge production.  Of course this would be a risky pick but taking risk like this is what makes fantasy football so enjoyable.  So again based on the upside Elliott provides I would be willing to draft him ahead of AP. 

Now while trying to find the fifth back I would take I made major changes to my running back rankings.  I initial wanted to go with Jamaal Charles since he was originally my 6th ranked back but after putting in a lot of thought I realized an old running back coming off of a second ACL tear is not the ideal candidate.  Next on my list was Mark Ingram.  Needless to say I just couldn't get excited about Ingram.  Then came Doug Martin and the more I dug into him the less I liked about him.  Then I stumbled across Lamar Miller and he has shot up my ranks and he is the fifth running back I would consider taking ahead of AP.  Miller was not heavily used in Miami and has the ability to be a top back in the league if he is given the opportunity to be a work horse.  He has done nothing but improve each year and is on the verge of becoming a complete back.  He has begun showing he can be a reliable receiver out of the backfield and has started finding the end zone which is evident by his 19 total TDs the past two seasons.  He has been one of the most durable backs the past three seasons.  He finished as the 6th ranked running back last year and did not have the workload the elite options had.  This will be Osweiler's first full season as a starter so I expect a good amount of check downs and a heavy dose of Miller running the ball.  I think Miller has a chance to become a back that demands 20+ touches week in and week out which could be a recipe for a huge fantasy season given his talent.  Miller has so much potential and could be something special in the league hopefully the Texans decide to use him correctly unlike the Dolphins.  Miller has the right combination of upside and safety that would make him an attractive option to take ahead of AP.

For the next few months we will continue to hear how AP is the “safest" running back in fantasy, but keep in mind Eddie Lacy was the "safest" pick in fantasy last year and did not give anywhere near the production needed to make him worth the price you spent.  Don't ignore the biggest red flag associated with AP which is his age.  Personally I still like AP a lot and would not blame anyone that takes him as the top RB this year.  If I draft AP I'm doing so knowing there is risk associated with that pick even though it is basically being swept under the rug because of his name.