We here at the Daily Norseman have had the amazing privilege of watching the career of Adrian Peterson unfold each year since he was drafted 7th overall in 2007. We knew almost immediately that we had someone special on our beloved Vikings. Someone that could carry the team in a new direction and become the face of a franchise that severely needed a boost. Sure, we needed a franchise quarterback more than anything, but this was the next best thing.
Adrian Peterson has given us so many memories over the last seven years. From his fantastic 296 yard game against San Diego in November of his rookie campaign (which would have been 350+ had San Diego not used a horse collar tackle to stop him), to his seemingly endless fumbles in 2008 and 2009. I am so grateful to have this amazing athlete lead our favorite football team.
With a new possible face of the franchise being drafted this spring in Teddy Bridgewater, I began thinking of how far Peterson has come and how much farther he can go in his career, and where he may rank one day against the best running backs in NFL history.
I went back and put together a stats list for all of the major running backs in league history to see how they stack up against each other. Being only 25, I don’t have the great memories of Barry Sanders and Walter Payton that some of you may have. I have heard the tall tales of Eric Dickerson and Emmitt Smith. Going over their careers stats gave me an appreciation of their careers that I never had before, and made me appreciate even more the outstanding career Adrian Peterson has had to this point.
I have always thought that the overall rushing record was the most important when comparing running backs but I quickly realized there are other stats that more accurately show how much of a yardage and scoring threat a certain player was. I also wanted to see how much these players hurt their respective teams by fumbling possessions away.
Here is how I did the break down.
Yards Per Carry – The whole point of a running game is to get as many yards as possible per attempt and to help open up the passing game. This is the least important stat in this breakdown considering the biggest gap I found between RBs was a whopping 1 yard. Over an entire career that 1 yard difference per attempt adds up, but it’s not a sexy stat.
Touches Per TD – This is the most important stat in this breakdown. Any time a player can score, he gives his team an advantage. The more he can score, the better chance his team has to win.
Touches Per Fumble – Another big stat. As big as TDs are to RBs and WRs, fumbles are equally important. While it’s not a 100% rule to figure out who will win, the team with the most turnovers has a massive disadvantage and has a much worse chance to win.
I also did a future stock watch for Adrian Peterson so that we could take a realistic look at where his stats may fall at the end of his career. By averaging each of the top backs on the list below, I predicted he would play five more season. I also predicted he would have one more HUGE season followed by two big seasons and finally his final two seasons that he does about 80% of his previous season.
LETS GET STARTED.
Yrds/Cry Touches/TD Touches/FUM
E. Dickerson - 4.4 / 34 / 38
T. Dorsett - 4.3 / 37 / 32
C. Martin - 4.0 / 40 / 121
W. Payton - 4.4 / 34.6 / 44
B. Sanders - 5.0 / 31 / 74
E. Smith - 4.2 / 28 .1 / 72
L. Tomlinson - 4.3 / 23.4 / 105
A. Peterson - 5.0 / 24.6 / 64
These stats shed a lot of light on how well a player actually performed beyond the tall tales of what has been passed down over the years.
Barry Sanders and Adrian Peterson both tie for 1st all time with 5.0 yards/carry. Again this stat is a bit misleading. The 2nd place backs, Eric Dickerson and Walter Payton, who average 4.4 yards/carry each are FAR off the 5.0 yet the difference is only .6. Peterson holds his own here. Being tied for 1st all time is an honor and we all know he deserves it.
FUTURE STOCK WATCH - I predict Adrian will finish his career with 4.6 yards/carry. While it isnt the 5.0 he has now, it still ranks him 2nd all time.
Ladainian Tomlinson absolutely owns this category. A touchdown every 23.4 touches is absurd. I saw a lot of him since my step dad is from San Diego so I knew before that was a touchdown machine but that's insane. Again, Adrian ranks 2nd all time and holds up very nicely against the best all time. AP and LT are well above the 3rd place Emmitt Smith and light years ahead of the rest of the pack
FUTURE STOCK WATCH - Again, I think Adrian holds up well going forward. I have him finishing his career with a TD every 26.6 touches.
Curtis Martin isn't brought up much when talking about the best backs of all time but he owns this category without question. He was a total tank with the ball and rarely gave it up to the other team. Dickerson, Dorsett and Payton don't even come into the picture here. As good as LT was at scoring he was just as good at keeping the ball away from the other team coming in 2nd place. Adrian, who was known for his fumble issues early on, has fixed those and actually ranks pretty well on the all time list coming in 5th all time.
FUTURE STOCK WATCH - I see Adrian continuing his improvement in the fumble department as his career progresses. I predict him finishing with a fumble every 73 touches which moves him slightly ahead of Emmitt Smith to 4th all time.
Whatever happens over the next half decade or so we need to appreciate Adrian for everything he has given us. He is a true great and has the potential to finish as the undisputed king of running backs. I cant wait to see it happen.