The Case Against Adrian Peterson
The fantasy football community is split on Adrian Peterson. The two groups are divided amongst a pair of narratives. There are the age detractors and then there’s the group of people who will say that he is a “freak”, the “GOAT” and that somehow he is the exception to the age rule. The problem with both narratives is that neither are particularly helpful in determining statistics for the upcoming season. I have mapped out a few points that I believe will illustrate that Adrian Peterson is being heavily over-drafted in fantasy leagues and is sure to leave fantasy owners spurned and disappointed, none of which will require me to mention his age.
Adrian Peterson has the second most career touches among active players behind only Frank Gore. At a glance, Adrian Peterson’s 2015 stats seem to indicate that AP is no worse for the wear as he finished with 1,485 yards and 11 TDs. However, if you look at the game logs you will notice a trend. From Week 1 to Week 12, Peterson averaged 4.9 yards per carry, which is what you would expect from a stud running back. However, over his last 6 games of 2015, his YPC dropped to a meager 3.3. To put this in perspective, Rawls had the league’s best YPC with 5.6 while Peterson’s 3.3 YPC would rank him outside the top 45 players in the NFL, below the likes of Matt Jones and Melvin Gordon. On the whole Petersons’ 4.37 YPC last season was the most inefficient season in his career. What these numbers show is a player who was very well rested coming into 2015 (Peterson had only played one game in the previous 20 months), but as the season wore on, Peterson showed the signs of a back who was breaking down and was a shell of himself.
I believe this scenario will be exacerbated in 2016 as Peterson has not had a season off to rest his legs. In fact, he is coming off of a season in which he touched the ball 382 times. Only 3 other RBs have had 375 touches or more in a season over the last 5 years.
Previous Runners With >375 Touches[lptw_table id=”25828″ style=”default”]
The regression trend following heavy usage has affected Peterson as well. Peterson has had more than 350 touches in a season 3 times in his career. The following years show marked regression with 22.4% fewer rushing yards and 0.6 fewer YPC (11.76% reduction) on average. If you reduce his 2015 statistics by the same rate you get 1,152 yards and 3.85 YPC, these are decent RB numbers but are nowhere near what we have come to expect from Peterson. Not to mention the risk of injury, which is heightened as Peterson is already dealing with hamstring issues in camp.
The Minneapolis-Star Tribune has reported this offseason that the Vikings expect to implement a more shotgun-centric offense. The idea being that the Vikings’ young QB, Teddy Bridgewater is a better fit for that style of offense. It makes sense that the Vikings would want to put their QB in the best position to succeed, especially considering that Bridgewater is the future of the franchise. Adrian Peterson, on the other hand, is unlikely to play for the Vikings beyond 2016 as he would be due $18 million dollars in 2017. The problem is that Adrian Peterson struggles mightily running out of this style of offense. In 2015, Peterson averaged just 1.6 YPC out of the shotgun. This is simply unacceptable from a RB who is supposed to be featured in the offense.
Peterson’s value takes an additional hit from the emergence of third-year RB Jerick McKinnon who is a capable runner (5.2 YPC) and pass catcher (21 receptions), and is a better fit for a shotgun-based offense.
The last straw for me when evaluating Adrian Peterson in 2016 is that he is currently being drafted as the second running back off the board with the 5th overall pick. Could he have 1,000 yards? Double-digit TDs? Maybe. But the risk that goes along with drafting a RB who broke down at the end of the season and fumbled the ball more than any other skill position player with my first-round pick is too high for my taste. What’s worse is that fantasy owners are being led to believe that Peterson is the “safe pick” at that spot. The fact is that he isn’t.
I strongly recommend that you avoid Adrian Peterson in the first round of drafts this season. This probably means that he will become someone else’s headache in 2016 while you were able to scoop up stud WRs or elite talent at the RB position like Todd Gurley, David Johnson or Lamar Miller. If you are really set on owning a Vikings RB, I suggest that you take a long look at Jerick McKinnon in the later rounds, as opposed to taking an aging 31-year old (there, I said it) RB with a top 5 pick.