Adrian Peterson: a fumbling analysis.

Adrian Peterson, has a fumbling problem.

We’ve read and heard and talked about how he and his work ethic aim to fix this in the off-season by carrying a 14 lb football around, and if you can lug that around securely than you can hold a football securely.


Regardless, I read basically those same words on the regular Norseman site and decided to do some research as a mild application for a nerdy position at the Daily Norseman.


Adrian Peterson is entering his 4th year, and has also only played from ages 22-24.

I will do compare Sanders and Walter Payton by age and by pro experience, with some background knowledge of other notable running backs.

I will note, that I’m not going to base this research on rushing attempts, but instead on touches (rushing attempts + receptions). I’m also going to only include total fumbles, not fumbles lost, because fumbles lost is often up to chance. While it’s nice that a higher percentage of his fumbles are recovered by his own team than most other running backs, I don’t care for that quality.

It’s hard to explain, but I think we can all agree that the fumbling thing is mostly up to chance on whether its recovered by a teammate or not.


In Adrian Peterson’s rookie year, he had 257 touches (238 rushes, 19 catches) and 4 fumbles.

This is one fumble every 64.25 touches.

In his sophomore campaign, he had 384 touches (363 rushes, 21 catches) and 9 fumbles. That’s a fumble every 42.66 touches.

This past year, 357 touches (314 rushes, 43 catches) and 7 fumbles, or one fumble every even 51 rushes. So 64.25 -> 42.66 -> 51.

Meanwhile, Barry Sanders Rookie, Sophomore, and, er, Junior, years produced:

304 touches – 10 fumbles – 1 every 30.4 touches.

291 – 4 fumbles – 1 every 72.75

383 – 5 – 1 every 76.6

…Barry obviously had a bad start and swiftly made improvement. If you were to compare him at the same age, take out his awful rookie year and include another a worse year of 341 – 6 – one every 56.83 attempts at the end.  Apart from his rookie year and his 4th year/age 24, he never really had a bad number in fumble frequency.

Walter Payton:

Rookie (21) – 229 – 9 – one every 25.44 (!)
Sophomore (22) – 326 – 10 – 32.6

3rd (23) – 366 – 11 – 33.27. It’s worth noting this was a career year for him in Yards from the line of scrimmage, and rushing yards… and he had 132.3 rushing yards per game.

4th (24) – 383 – 16 – 23.9375. (!!)

Now, those are the bad years… AP’s only entering his 4th season, but age wise is going on 25 now.

Walter Payton’s next few seasons…

5th (25): 400 – 7 – one every 57.

6th (26): 363 – 5 – 72.6

7th (27): 380 – 9 – 42.22

8th (28): 180 – 3 – 60

That 8th year was 1982, which included a player’s strike (hence the significantly lower amount of carries.) Only after that year would he be consistently above one fumble every 70 touches.

9th (29): 367 – 5 – 73.4

10th (30): 426 – 5 – 85.2

And so forth.


To be certain, one fumble every 70 touches still isn’t really good. But it’s not bad.

Emmitt Smith’s, in his career, had a fumble every 80 touches. (4924 touches, 61 fumbles)

Eric Dickerson, in his record setting year, had a fumble every 28 touches… and over his whole career, had a fumble every 42 touches.

In Jamal Lewis’ best year, once every 51.625 touches.

Curtis Martin’s career: one fumble every 138 touches. (That’s impressive.)

Jerome Bettis’ career: one fumble every 89.73 touches.

My point is, an average amount of fumbles is once every 70-80 touches.
A good amount is once every 80-100 touches.

A great amount is anything over that.


This past season, Chris Johnson was great. While average 5.6 yards an attempt and getting 50 receptions for his team (a total of 2006 rushing yards and 2509 yards beyond the line of scrimmage… although he also threw an incomplete pass. Er… yeah.), he had a fumble once every 136 touches.


So, Adrian Peterson has something to shoot for.

Barry Sanders would seem to make us think that only a rookie would fumble like that.

Eric Dickerson and Walter Payton would seem to make us think that you’ll keep fumbling till you improve upon it.


The punchline is, though, that while some are naturally good at holding the rock steady (look at any season by Curtis Martin), Adrian Peterson is not too young to improve.  And with his work ethic, if that is what he is working on, I have faith that he can improve to fumbling only once every 75, 80 touches ish. It seems once you get good at carrying it, it largely stays at that amount and fluctuates 10-20 depending on the year (I assume good defense by the other teams and the situations will effect a lot of fumbling, but you can improve your basic ability to hold onto it.)


Anywho, hope you found some of that useful.

All my statistics were taken from, and a calculator.

If I was better with Excel or something, I’d have made a graph to compare visually AP with all the others on.

Hope this makes do instead.

This FanPost was created by a registered user of The Daily Norseman, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the staff of the site. However, since this is a community, that view is no less important.

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