In 2011 Minnesota Vikings phenom running back Adrian Peterson tore both his MCL and ACL ending his 2011 season, which now begs the question whether Adrian Peterson is no longer number one material in Fantasy Football.
But the news pouring over the wire is that Adrian Peterson is right on track with his recovery, otherwise continually showing he is in fact a freak of nature. Just recently it was reported that Peterson is not only running—one month after beginning dryland running, mind you—but he beat his teammates during wind sprints according to ESPN TwinCities 1500.
As unbelievable as this news is, however, fantasy football owners have to take a look at the big picture before they get overly excited over this news.
Adrian Peterson was a true-type workhorse back right out of the gate. In 2008 and 2009, Peterson averaged 338 attempts. In 2010, Peterson averaged close 51.1 snaps in a span of 10 games (283 attempts) while in 2011 Peterson registered 208 attempts in 12 games.
But being a workhorse does take its toll on a running back. Peterson has suffered ankle sprains, up and down performances, and of course his latest injury, a torn MCL and ACL.
While there is obviously positive news streaming—now***—about Peterson’s recovery, one has to wonder about Peterson’s ability to stay healthy, because let’s face it kids, that’s where the real money is in fantasy football.
But simple durability isn’t the only concern here for fantasy football owners.
When I say understanding trends I am not necessarily talking about those trendy mathematically infused algorithms that requires a higher understanding of Algebra and a bedside bottle of Tylenol, I’m talking about the sort of trends that never get openly discussed.
Any one of us can chew on running back Statistical methodology with a side of projected stats while hucking back our morning coffee, but we also have to be aware of what is going on around the player in question to better utilize all the information.
The NFL—for a growing while now—has been trending towards a two-back league. Now this doesn’t necessarily mean the dreaded RBBC, but it still is worth taking into consideration. Teams are realizing the potential dangers that naturally come with a single featured back system, but in the same vein, they are also realizing the potential value in utilizing more than one back over the course of 16 games.
The Carolina Panthers have been doing it for a few years now. The Oakland Raiders tinkered with the notion as did the Miami Dolphins, while the Philadelphia Eagles are hoping to scale back LeSean McCoy’s workload in hopes they can also run with Dion Lewis.
Even the New Orleans Saints has a separate locker room full of running backs they frequently tap into.
The Vikings are hoping they can AT LEAST get 15 touches out of Peterson at the start of the season. The Vikings are also hoping for an increased role with Toby Gerhart, considering how well he has done filling in for Peterson when needed.
In short, the Vikings brass are beginning to tinker around with running both backs in 2012 which means another team rolling with the trends.
So what does it all mean in fantasy football land?
Fantasy owners still have to wait and see how Peterson does with his cutting before they can truly trust the recovery news because simple power running is only phase one of the recovery process from the grade of injury Peterson sustained.
But even if everything goes over smoothly, the growing consensus is that fantasy owners will be lucky to the same 18 to 20 touches per year they have been enjoying out of Peterson.
From a strict football point of view, scaling back Peterson and running both “All-Day” and Gerhart makes perfect sense.
Now, the idea is to figure out Peterson’s true potential value in fantasy football if the Vikings do in fact follow the trend and scale Peterson back.
In the long-long ago, Peterson was number one material in any given fantasy football draft, but that doesn’t appear to be the case anymore.
The current ADP* info on Peterson has him averaging out—still—as a first round pick (1.12) in Standard leagues, and a second round pick (2.01) in PPR and FLEX leagues.
In both formats, Peterson was as low as a third round selection.
But in the real world of mock drafting, Peterson is actually averaging out as a fourth round selection.**
If the Vikings decide to trim Peterson back in 2012, then a third or fourth round selection makes sense, whereas a first round selection becomes a potentially wasted pick.
If Peterson is slow to make an impact at the start of the season—a very real possibility—then a third or fourth round selection makes even more sense.
The moral of the story is, pay close attention to the trends that are to come. Understand that Adrian Peterson is likely to fall in your own fantasy draft because he will be viewed as a player who is no longer number one material—not because of fading talent, but because of the changing trends and expected strategic approach of the Vikings coaching staff.
Quite frankly, if you do wind up grabbing Peterson in the fourth, a good portion of your team will already be under construction, making Peterson a monumentally inexpensive impact addition to your fantasy team.
See? Sometimes not being “number one material” is a good thing if you play your cards right.
* ADP information taken from our friends at FantasyFootballCalculator.com
** Mock Draft info is based on a minimum of 25 mock drafts through 5/5/2012