Last winter, Adrian Peterson suffered a gruesome knee injury against the Washington Redskins on Christmas Eve. A torn ACL has been the downfall for many great running backs in the past. Yet Peterson, not even 8 months after the injury, has returned to practice in Minnesota and has been running drills with the team. Peterson feels like he has recovered fully from the injury and is ready to go. While there should be cause for concern, Peterson is not your ordinary running back. He has been the prime example of recovering quickly from injury in football, and this should be no exception.
The Minnesota Vikings have been taking extra precautions with Peterson in order to insure that he does not reinjure his knee after a prompt return. The message is concise to the defensive players in practice: make contact with Peterson, and you’re gone. Perhaps the redshirt treatment isn’t the best way to bring a running back back into action, but you like to see Peterson back on the field and trying to make it back into game action. Peterson has been very tough throughout his career, and it’s no secret that when he is in the game, he’s probably the best running back in the league. Having Peterson back will be a huge boon for the Vikings come opening day.
On the fantasy football side of the issue, Peterson has been lowered significantly in rankings everywhere due to the nature of his injury, and the fact that a dropoff in production is very likely. Still, with his return to camp he doesn’t seem to be getting the respect that he should still command. ESPN has Peterson as the #10 running back, while NFL.com has him at #15 in their projections. That’s way too low for a player who, for the past few years, has been the most dominant running back in fantasy football. And until this injury, Peterson was showing no signs of slowing down.
Assuming Peterson is healthy, he should be a first round pick in all drafts, all formats. It’s not that he’s truly deserving of such standing without taking a game snap since last Christmas Eve. But seriously, who else are you drafting ahead of him?
Ray Rice, Arian Foster, and LeSean McCoy will be the top three running backs off the board for sure. The next group seems to consist of Chris Johnson, Matt Forte, and Maurice Jones-Drew, and with Jones-Drew holding out his stock is slipping by the day. Besides these guys, who will give you more fantasy points than a healthy Adrian Peterson?
Marshawn Lynch? He’s had one elite year of fantasy football, and still has a DUI charge kicking around that could cost him a few games.
Trent Richardson? You could take the risk that he’s the next Adrian Peterson, but the Browns are still pretty shoddy on offense.
Jamaal Charles? A good possibility, but he’s also coming off an ACL injury and has Peyton Hillis looking to steal a good number of carries.
DeMarco Murray? You can’t get more boom-or-bust than Murray this year. He was great for 7 games last season, but only had 2 rushing touchdowns and has a pretty significant injury history of his own.
The point is that Adrian Peterson has a longer track record than many of the players being drafted ahead of him, and a healthy Peterson is still almost a guaranteed top-5 running back in any format of fantasy football. We’ve seen him do great things for fantasy football teams year after year, which is more than you can say for the rest of the crop. As long as you are careful and draft solid running backs behind him, Adrian Peterson should be a first round fantasy football pick.