One of the toughest questions entering the 2017 fantasy football season is what to make of former Minnesota Vikings stud rusher, Adrian Peterson. Three years ago he lost a year due to a child abuse scandal, the next year he was back and cracking skulls and then last year he looked totally done.
Which Peterson can we expect with the Saints? First, we probably need to admit that Adrian Peterson isn’t your average NFL player. He shrugged off a torn ACL to pile on a career high 2,097 rushing yards back in 2012. The very next year he put up 1,266 yards on the ground and produced 11 total scores. After missing a year due to his off field issues, Peterson again beasted out at age 30, as he registered 1,485 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground, all while dropping in a healthy 4.5 yards per carry average.
Maybe we saw the future Hall of Famer hit a wall in 2016 and his best days are behind him. At 32, that wouldn’t be a major leap. That being said, Peterson only got about 2.5 games to prove he still had something left in the tank. The Titans, Packers and Colts bottled him up with ease, but there are a few worthy points to make. For one, Minnesota’s run-blocking wasn’t amazing a year ago. Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata, the two guys who replaced him for the remainder of the year, produced yard per carry averages of 3.4 and 3.3.
These aren’t world beater talents, but McKinnon is actually a physical specimen. The blocking wasn’t always there, folks. Peterson is also a volume back and nobody has ever denied that. In his three starts last year, he had just one game with more than 14 total touches. It’s possible Peterson was slowing down before a torn meniscus robbed him of most of his 2016 campaign, but at least part of his abrupt decline was thanks to a shaky o-line and a lack of a chance to redeem himself.
We don’t need to search high and low for praise being sent Peterson’s way this year. Drew Brees and others in New Orleans have suggested Peterson looks as good as ever and could be in for a big year. That could start right away in week one, when Peterson gets a crack at the only team he’s ever known – the Vikings.
Expecting Peterson to dominate in that matchup is a considerable reach, but it’s fair to wonder what he’ll be capable of on the year, overall. There are a couple of things still working against him, however. Mark Ingram remains the top rusher in New Orleans and is coming off of a career year (over 1,300 total yards and 10 TDs in 16 games). If healthy, Ingram is likely to remain the top back for the Saints and is the preferred fantasy asset. That’s an interesting take, especially since their ADP is flipped at the moment.
Per Fantasy Football Calculator, Peterson is being taken in fantasy football drafts at some point in round four, while Ingram is sliding to round six. That really shouldn’t be happening. Ingram is the younger, more versatile back between the two and until we’re told otherwise, he still seems to have the more defined role.
Still, it’s not totally crazy to see people pluck All Day off of draft boards so fast. After all, this is a dude who has regularly been in the mix to be fantasy football’s #1 pick and here we can get him in the fourth round or later. Ingram represents the clear value as things stand, but there is an argument for rolling with Peterson first.
Fortunately, that argument is two-fold. On one hand, if nothing changes and Ingram remains New Orleans’ top rusher, Peterson still should have interesting value. It might not make him the better fantasy pick by two whole rounds, but he’s not going to be worthless. Assuming the Saints spread running back touches out like they have in the past, Peterson could be looking at some type of share close to what Tim Hightower saw last season (155 total touches).
Hightower’s role was good enough for fantasy’s 33rd best rusher, which is lower than where Peterson is being valued right now in fantasy drafts. Of course, Hightower isn’t as explosive as Adrian Peterson and Peterson could (and probably will) see at least a slightly bigger role.
More importantly, regardless of where you find yourself taking Peterson, there is a decent chance one of two things happen; his role ends up being way bigger than expected or Ingram gets hurt and he ends up being “the guy” for much of the year. Assuming Peterson isn’t totally washed up at 32 years of age, that would make him quite possibly the steal of your fantasy football draft. Ingram’s role turned him into fantasy’s 10th best running back a year ago, but a shaky injury history (3+ missed games in 4 of 6 seasons) leaves the door cracked open for a serious role swap.
Right now I prefer Ingram of the two. This is his backfield and he was a bit of a beast in a big role in 2016. The Saints know that and respect it, plus they can’t be sure yet what version of Peterson they’re getting. Neither can you, which is why we need to try our best to flip flop this ADP. If you can land a potential stud like Peterson in round 5 or later, I’m game. Ingram’s injury history and the upside with a determined Peterson is obviously very tantalizing. We just need to also note the risk. Peterson is still human, he’s not currently the top back and the Saints do love to both throw the ball and spread out their running back touches.
Ultimately, we’re really not devaluing Peterson that much, per ADP data. In fact, we probably should devalue him a little more. He may very well still be good enough to be a fantasy beast, but he certainly hasn’t been that guy for 2 of the last 3 seasons and at least starting out, he’s not set up to be that guy again in 2017. Hopefully we can get him for the right price and he is that guy. Just make sure you’re not selling out to get a 32-year old back who might not even crack the top 30 this year.