Adrian Peterson has now officially returned to practice, nearly eight months after tearing his ACL near the conclusion of the 2011 regular season. His return to health has been closely monitored, as fantasy owners continue feverish preparations for their various drafts. Which has made attempts to forecast when he will be able to line up extensively for the Vikings an ongoing process.
Considering how razor thin the RB position is for owners this year, and the mountainous list of questions that are attached to every back except Arian Foster, Ray Rice, and LeSean McCoy, it is somewhat refreshing to have a back with AP’s unique ability to now include among the possibilities for selection as early as the second round. And the image of a healthy Peterson available for insertion into lineups as early as September is enticing to anyone who is constructing a draft plan.
Of course, Peterson is not far removed from the matchless “must draft” stratum that this year’s trio of Foster, Rice and McCoy now reside in. He was after all, the number one overall draft pick in the majority of 2011 drafts, preserving a four year trend in which he was either the No. 1 or No. 2 overall selection.
With 970 yards on just 208 attempts, AP narrowly missed his fifth consecutive 1,000+ yard season in 2011, despite being sidelined during four contests. His 4.7 YPC was consistent with his career average of 4.8, and his 12 rushing TDs were the NFL’s third highest total, despite his shortened season. During his outstanding five year career, he has averaged 1,350 yards and 13 TDs on the ground alone.
AP is currently the 11th RB being selected, and his ADP is 22. Among the collection of talented backs who are currently being drafted before him, most have factors that can create unease for owners who are assessing their draft value. Maurice Jones-Drew remains absent from training camp, and has endured a mammoth average of 318 carries over the past three seasons. Darren McFadden’s propensity for injuries has been well documented, while forcing him to miss 19 games in the past four years. Chris Johnson still must prove that his 2011 output was an anomaly. Matt Forte will now be forced to share touches with Michael Bush. DeMarco Murray must contend with an underwhelming offensive line, and the Cowboys’ diminished passing threats due to injuries for both Miles Austin and Jason Witten. And finally, Trent Richardson is unproven, and will perform in an offense that has significant shortcomings. My colleague Greg Brosh has written an excellent roadmap for potential owners who are pondering a selection of Richardson: https://fantasyknuckleheads.com/fantasy-football-2012-continue-to-look-or-stay-away-from-trent-richardson/
In a league where some RBs shy away from contact, Peterson’s competitive spirit is so substantial, that he was not enamored with HC Leslie Frazier’s decision to institute a no-hit moratorium on the franchise back during practice. While anyone who is contemplating an early selection of Peterson is relieved with Frazier’s policy, All Day’s reaction should terminate any concerns that he will run timidly when he does return.
Drafting Peterson, must be done with an understanding that doing so is undertaking somewhat of a gamble. AP might not be 100% at any point of the season, even as he accumulates carries. But considering his high level of commitment, along with his immense talent, the reality of how thin the RB position currently is, and the fact that nearly all of the backs being selected ahead of him possess their own questions, the belief here is that even at less than 100%, Peterson is still worth drafting around picks #17-#18. That is based upon his situation as this is being written, and his status must be monitored closely as we progress thru August. But if the ongoing news continues to be favorable, and it appears that he will be a major contributor to the Vikings offense in September, then his selection should occur even earlier in round two, and he could even be worthy of a late first round selection.
However, anyone who does seize Peterson, should also make it a priority to grab backup Toby Gerhart. Even if that means snatching him somewhat sooner than you would prefer. He is currently the 45th RB being selected, with an ADP of 134. But it is safer to grab Gerhart earlier, rather than risk of having a fellow owner pilfer him before you can. That would provide you with the option of starting Peterson's backup until All Day returns, should he be unable to start in week 1.