Just how good has Adrian Peterson been so far in his career?

Hello, all. I'm Russ, and I'm a Patriots fan. But let's not stand on tedious ceremony. I've been doing a statistical analysis of players throughout the history of the NFL compared to their contemporaries/comparable players throughout history, and I'm currently working on Adrian Peterson. I've always been a huge fan of Peterson, and I've always known him to be an incredibly successful player, but until I put him up against some of the widely accepted all time greats I never realized just how fantastic his statistics are. Naturally many of them are assisted greatly by his remarkable 2012 season, but nonetheless his body of work is truly staggering. So I decided to take all the data I compiled and organize it into a series of lists based on whichever statistic I was delving into at that point. The statistics I chose to use are the popular and generic ones: games, carries, yards, yards per carry, rushing touchdowns, receptions, receiving yards, yards per reception, and receiving touchdowns.

The players I decided (not exactly arbitrarily, but certainly not through a scientific system of any sort. I chose a group of players from various eras with various skill sets to be the sample) that Peterson would be compared to are Walter Payton, Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders, Eric Dickerson, Marcus Allen, Marshall Faulk, Earl Campbell, OJ Simpson, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Jim Brown. With Peterson, that makes 11 players. I wanted great players, but players with different skill sets, that way the sample was as diversified as possible. There is the bruiser (Earl Campbell) the traditional backs (Peterson, Dickerson, Payton, Brown, Simpson) and the, for lack of a better term, "do it all" backs (Tomlinson, Faulk, Allen, Smith, Sanders.) All Hall of Fame players. I also wanted each decade from the 50's/60's until now represented, so that also added into my decision.

I'm sure you've all read similar things in the past, but I figured on the off chance that some of you weren't completely inundated with stats from his magnificent season, you may be interested in looking at where his career (through 89 games) matches up to the careers (through 89 games) of some of the top backs of all time. Safe to say that when it's all said and done, barring a tragic injury or an unexpected retirement, Peterson might have the career Jim Brown would have had if he didn't retire so young.

NOTE: I haven't looked at the standard deviations, variances, or any other more in-depth look at the statistics vs. the mean just yet. This is only a consolidation of the raw data and nothing more. Still, I hope you fine folks enjoy it. You're lucky to have the league's best on your team.

Extra note: I indented every other category simply to save the lists from being an endless column of names and numbers. There's no other significance to the subcategories than trying to make it easier to read.


1. Eric Dickerson - 2,100

2. Earl Campbell - 1,947

3. LaDainian Tomlinson - 1,912

4. Emmitt Smith - 1,911

5. Walter Payton - 1,865

6. Jim Brown - 1,777

7. Barry Sanders - 1,763

8. Adrian Peterson - 1,754

9. OJ Simpson - 1,695

10. Marcus Allen - 1,617

11. Marshall Faulk - 1,581


1. Eric Dickerson - 9,749

2. Jim Brown - 9,261

3. Adrian Peterson - 8,849

4. Barry Sanders - 8,672

5. Emmitt Smith - 8,586

6. Earl Campbell - 8,489

7. LaDainian Tomlinson - 8,398

8. Walter Payton - 8,386

9. OJ Simpson - 8,066

10. Marcus Allen - 6,593

11. Marshall Faulk - 6,346

Yards per carry

1. Jim Brown - 5.22

2. Adrian Peterson - 5.0

3. Barry Sanders - 4.9

4. OJ Simpson - 4.76

5. Eric Dickerson - 4.64

6. Walter Payton - 4.5

7. Emmitt Smith - 4.49

8. Tomlinson - 4.39

9. Earl Campbell - 4.36

10. Marcus Allen - 4.08

11. Marshall Faulk - 4.01


1. Emmitt Smith - 96

2. Tomlinson - 91

3. Jim Brown - 82

4. Adrian Peterson - 76

5. Eric Dickerson - 75

6. Earl Campbell - 72

7. Walter Payton - 65

8. Barry Sanders - 62

9. Marcus Allen - 60

10. OJ Simpson - 48

11. Marshall Faulk - 47


1. Tomlinson - 389

2. Marshall Faulk - 358

3. Marcus Allen - 353

4. Emmitt Smith - 289

5. Barry Sanders - 210

6. Walter Payton - 202

7. Jim Brown - 190

8. Adrian Peterson - 177

9. Eric Dickerson - 169

10. OJ Simpson - 134

11. Earl Campbell - 114

Receiving yards

1. Marshall Faulk - 3,468

2. Marcus Allen - 3,333

3. Tomlinson - 2,843

4. Emmitt Smith - 1,883

5. Jim Brown - 1,833

6. Walter Payton - 1,791

7. Barry Sanders - 1,782

8. Adrian Peterson - 1,526

9. OJ Simpson - 1,461

10. Eric Dickerson - 1,394

11. Earl Campbell - 711

Yards per reception

1. OJ Simpson - 10.9

2. Marshall Faulk - 9.69

3. Jim Brown - 9.65

4. Marcus Allen - 9.44

5. Walter Payton - 8.9

6. Adrian Peterson - 8.6

7. Barry Sanders - 8.5

8. Eric Dickerson - 8.25

9. Tomlinson - 7.31

10. Emmitt Smith - 6.52

11. Earl Campbell - 6.24

Receiving touchdowns

1. Marcus Allen - 16

2. Jim Brown - 14

T3. Marshall Faulk/Tomlinson - 11

4. OJ Simpson - 10

5. Barry Sanders - 6

6. Walter Payton - 5

T7. Emmitt Smith/Adrian Peterson - 4

8. Eric Dickerson - 3

9. Earl Campbell - 0

Average position on each list

1. Jim Brown - 3.625

2. Tomlinson - 4.5

3. Emmitt Smith - 5.375

T4. Adrian Peterson/Barry Sanders - 5.875

5. Eric Dickerson - 6.125

6. Walter Payton - 6.25

7. Marshall Faulk - 6.875

8. OJ Simpson/Marcus Allen - 7.125

9. Earl Campbell - 8.375

Well, that's that. It's pretty much clear that Mr. Peterson is truly an incredibly outstanding runner even by lofty, Hall of Fame standards. The only player on this list whose statistics are higher than Peterson's in every category is Jim Brown. Every other Hall of Famer has their own strengths (Dickerson carried the ball more than anyone and that gave him great success; Marshall Faulk was a much bigger threat catching out of the backfield than he was rushing the ball through his first 89 games; Emmitt Smith punched it into the endzone quite often, certainly benefiting from having obscenely good blocking in front of him, etc.) If anybody is interested, I could always add to this post the standard deviation for each category once I get the chance and see where he statistically compares to other Hall of Famers or even his fellow running backs from 2012 (or any year) and see how much better he was than the mean. If not, I at least hope these basic lists were of even minimal enjoyment to somebody.

Good luck in 2013!

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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