Friday, June 13, 2008

Yet another Adrian Peterson post

OK, enough talk about Tarvaris Jackson for a while. It gets a little depressing at times. Let's instead look at the luminescent star of the Vikings' offense and try to get an idea for just how good Adrian Peterson was in 2007 (even though the team was only 6-8 in games he appeared in, thus making him far less valuable than Jackson, who, as we all know, went 8-4 in his games) -- and how great he might be in years to come.

A few posts ago, I used the Historical Data Dominator to get an idea of how many other second-year quarterbacks had a season like Jackson's second season and to see how he might do in the future. Making such a comparison for Peterson is nearly impossible; Peterson had 238 carries for 1,341 yards in 2007. Going 25 carries (213-263) and 100 yards (1,241-1,441) in either direction yields zero results among rookies. Expanding the search to include any player with those numbers, in any year of his career, still yields a small but elite group of runners. There's Hall of Famers Barry Sanders, Jim Brown, Jim Taylor, and Franco Harris, and future HOF-er Marshall Faulk, who appears on the list three times. Ottis Anderson also had a solid career, racking up over 10,000 career rushing yards.

Then there's Wendell Tyler, a part-time back with the Rams and 49ers two decades ago, who, to his credit, had a 4.7-yard-per-carry career average in what was probably an injury-hampered career. And, oh yeah, there's a pair of Vikings on the list: Robert Smith and Michael Bennett. If he'd played a few more years, Smith might have had a shot at 10,000 career rushing yards and the Hall of Fame, while Bennett was an unmitigated disaster in his Vikings career, never staying healthy and showing a remarkable ability to run right into opposing defenders instead of avoiding them with his great speed. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Peterson, Bennett, and Smith are the last three running backs taken in the first round by the Vikings. Still, with five of the nine players whose season compare to Peterson's rookie campaign in the Hall of Fame, and two others displaying near-HOF talent, the future looks pretty good for Purple Jesus, presuming injuries don't cut short his career as they did for Bennett and Tyler.

Here's another way to compare Peterson's season. Since 1960, there have only been 10 seasons where a running back accumulated more than 200 carries while notching a 5.5 or better yards per carry. (Peterson averaged 5.63 in 2007.) Again, it's a very short and very good list: Peterson, Brown (twice), Sanders, O.J. Simpson (twice), James Brooks, Eric Dickerson, and Clinton Portis. Aside from Peterson, Portis (7,715) and Brooks (7,962) are the only men on that list with fewer than 10,000 career rushing yards, and Portis is a good bet to make it there in two years or so. Even expanding the search to 5.25 yards per carry or better yields more hits than misses.

Of course, nothing is certain in the NFL. Injuries can derail even the most promising career, and AP has had his share of ailments already early in his career. But if these comparisons are even remotely an indication of where Peterson will go with his career, we Vikings fans could be in for a long, gratifying, highlight-packed ride.

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