Adrian Peterson deserves to be mentioned as one of the best RBs all time in my book – this is a guy who pounded the field for 2097 yards – a year after tearing his ACL. Peterson is a hard-nosed, powerful runner, who has always been very hard to take down, who grinds out tough and ugly yards after contact. MVP of the NFL in 2012, and he led the league in yards for 3 seasons from 2008 – 2015, with 7 seasons of 1200 or more rushing YDs. And at 35 years old – he is still running the gridiron.
Unlike greats like Emmitt Smith and Jerome Bettis – when Adrian played for the Vikings, if we are being true to word – he never had top ended QBs to play with. He had enjoyed Brett Favre for just 2 seasons, and he put up outstanding numbers, with 30 TDs and 2500+ rushing YDs. Then he also was “lucky” to have QBs like Christian Ponder, Tarvaris Jackson and Gus Frerotte for the rest of his time there. Everybody knew Adrian was getting the ball 85% of the time, and no team was able to stop it, even when they were putting 8 in the box on probably 90% of the plays.
Struggling out of the backfield catching the ball was always an issue – the last 6 years, while in Minnesota he had 40 catches in just one year – and only one season of 43 or more receptions – that year he had Favre slinging the ball for the Vikes. His job was to punch it up the middle through the tackles. He also had a bad fumbling problem – seemingly at some very clutch times was always a concern. Wth 48 career fumbles over 3121 carries putting him a fumble roughly every 65 carries. That isn’t great.
RBs have been switching over to being more of an all around threat, with run and catch players. The position has evolved. RBs these days are looked at as almost being a WR3 or WR4 – as Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara have shown a phenomenal ability – and made big changes from the 25 carry /game RBs of old. I think a lot of the change happened in the last 5 years or so – when the RB flipped into a lot more pass-catching position.
Peterson is pretty much one of the last true running backs, a 220lb RB who smashes you in the mouth. You know what you are getting – even in his 14th season, at 35 years old, he is still producing. Which is simply fascinating to me. A RB who played the game like he has, beat his body like he has, and has the wear and tear on his legs like he has, the fact that he is still productive, at all, is super impressive. In 2017 he was giving Arizona almost 75 YDs /game and then he led Washington in rushing with 1042 YDs in 2018 when playing there, and at 35 he is leading the Lions in rushing.
We all know AP28 has been one of the most explosive running backs in history, with a strong motor and the scary ability to break off a 97 yard run at any given moment. His awesome mix of strength, heart, and violence was unmatched on the field in his heyday. Peterson is the only remaining RB of a dying breed that we sadly probably won’t see for much longer with RBs now getting 50-60 catches out of the backfield. By the time Adrian Peterson calls it a wrap – he will absolutely end as a top 5 running back all time. In my mind, he is probably number 5 RB all-time behind only Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Jim Brown, and Walter Payton.