Evaluating Adrian Peterson’s 2015 Fantasy Football Success

Running back Adrian Peterson may still not have a home, but that doesn’t mean people are afraid to draft him in 2015 Fantasy Football leagues.

Adrian Peterson ADP

Peterson is currently being drafted as the fifth running back off the board on FantasyFootballCalculator.com. While the Fantasy Football community only has one game from 2014 to judge Peterson for 2015 leagues, it seems like his pedigree is speaking for itself.

Adrian Peterson Career Stats

 

In the 2011 season, Peterson suffered a devastating ACL injury,but had the best year of his career upon his quick return for 2012. From his work ethic, Peterson’s absence may not play as big a role as it would for other players. Teammate Tom Johnson works out with the 30-year old running back, and Johnson stated the Peterson even looks a little leaner. Despite his age and missing an entire season, Peterson is a special breed of athlete. Sure, drafting him is a risk, but it was also a risk to draft him in 2012.

With that being said, there are some situations that could provide for more favorable Fantasy Football success than others. I believe that Teddy Bridgewater is actually the best quarterback from the 2014 draft class, and I think the Minnesota Vikings made the right investment with the former Louisville Cardinal leading the offense. The biggest challenge for the Vikings in 2015 will be competing with the NFC North, however, as the team finished the 2014 season with a  7-9 record, and the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions provided Minnesota with four loses.

The Arizona Cardinals have been linked to Peterson for awhile now,  but things might play out closer to the 2015 NFL Draft. The Dallas Cowboys seem in and out of contention for Peterson everyday, but you never know what owner Jerry Jones has up his sleeves.

So for Fantasy Football players in 2015, where can Peterson reach his maximum value?

Minnesota Vikings

Since Peterson’s arrival to Minnesota in 2007, the Vikings have only accumulated three winning seasons. With a rotating cast of quarterbacks that included Tarvaris Jackson, Gus Frerotte, Brett Favre, Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel, the Vikings did not appear interested in finding the future franchise quarterback or providing its current quarterbacks with too many weapons when A.P. first joined the team. Everything fell on Peterson, but placing the entire hopes of an organization on one man’s shoulders is not the way to win a Super Bowl.

To give the Vikings credit, the team focused on offense in the 2009 NFL Draft with the selection of Percy Harvin as a first-round pick, running back Toby Gerhart was selected in Round 2 of the 2010 NFL Draft, quarterback Christian Ponder(Round 1) and tight end Kyle Rudolph(Round 2) were selected to bolster the offense in the 2011 NFL Draft, wide receivers Jarius Wright and Greg Childs were selected in Round 4 of the 2012 NFL Draft, Cordarrelle Patterson was selected in Round 1 of the 2013 NFL Draft and Teddy Bridgewater(Round 1) and running back Jerick McKinnon(Round 3)  became the newest members of the Minnesota Vikings from the 2014 NFL Draft.

I’m not arguing that these picks were correct, I’m just noting what Minnesota did to try and improve the offense after the first few years of Peterson’s arrival, even though this does seem like a case of too little too late.

When Peterson faced the start of his suspension in 2014, I wrote a profile on McKinnon, and why he could develop into a Fantasy Football star.  At the 2014 NFL Combine, McKinnon had the most bench reps, as well as the second-fastest 40-yard dash time. This is an unusual pairing, but it is also the recipe for a freak athlete. He is still very raw, but the 22-year old back was able to post two 100-rushing yard performances when he carried the ball 18 or more times. McKinnon won’t overtake Peterson, however, so there really isn’t anything to worry about in terms of competition for Peterson’s potential return to Minnesota.

Peterson’s Fantasy Success with the Minnesota Vikings

In 2014, the Vikings lost four games by three points or less. With a second year under Bridgewater’s belt, a healthy Rudolph returning to the mix, the addition of Mike Wallace, the emergence of Charles Johnson and the potential of Bridgewater reconnecting with former college teammate DeVante Parker, this offense looks promising.

If age and time away were to slow Peterson down, he would be returning to a division where the Packers ranked 23rd against the run, Detroit ranked 1st against the run and Chicago ranked 17th against the run in 2014. Obviously you can’t rely on last year’s numbers to predict future success for defenses, but it generally takes a few seasons before defenses are able to provide drastic changes in its numbers.

With a better offense and in a fairly-friendly division regarding the rush(outside of Detroit), Peterson still should be able to produce with the Vikings. He’s had success for the Vikings during losing seasons, so I don’t see why he can’t finish as a top-five back with Minnesota in 2015.

Dallas Cowboys

For the longterm, drafting Melvin Gordon or Todd Gurley makes much more sense than picking up Peterson. Even if Peterson has three or four more productive years, Gordon or Gurley could have seven-10. The rookie backs would also be a much cheaper option than Peterson.

Having said that, if Dallas wants to win while Tony Romo is still the starting quarterback, it would seem to make sense to sign Peterson. I thought last year was the year for the Arizona Cardinals to make a run, and before the ACL injury to Carson Palmer proved too costly for the production of the offense, it looked like the Cardinals were going to make that run.

With a 34-year old Romo and a 26-year old Dez Bryant, it is almost now or never for Dallas to reach a Super Bowl. After Romo leaves, it will be a rebuilding process.

Head Coach Jason Garret stated that he wanted to keep a run-first style in tact, but recent signee Darren McFadden is most likely not the guy for the job. McFadden has struggled to stay on the field throughout his seven-year career, and as a 27-year old running back, he is no spring chicken. While being used sparingly, McFadden was able to play in the first full 16-game season of his career in 2014. It’s interesting to note that DeMarco Murray struggled staying healthy through most of his young career as well, but Murray was somehow able to handle a total of 450 touches last season. McFadden’s injury history doesn’t seem to lend itself to that type of workload, and another back will be needed to help carry the load.

Peterson’s Fantasy Success with the Dallas Cowboys

If Peterson plays how he has in previous seasons, McFadden won’t cut into his production. Dallas is obviously not afraid to ride the hot hand. Outside of McFadden, Peterson’s only competition would be Lance Dubar and Joseph Randle. Dunbar has yet to emerge as the Fantasy sleeper that some had him pegged for, and Randle has only averaged 52.5 touches in the past two seasons. I’m not worried about the competition within the Cowboy’s depth chart.

As far as the NFC East goes, Peterson faces another  friendly division for running backs. In terms of rushing yards allowed, the New York Giants ranked 30th, the Philadelphia Eagles ranked 15th and the Washington Redskins ranked 12th. Obviously, these numbers mean nothing to Peterson as he will be a top performer against any team he faces, but it’s nice to know that he won’t have incredible hurdles to overcome upon his return.

With one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, Peterson could produce top-three numbers in Dallas as long as he stays healthy.

Arizona Cardinals

If Andre Ellington was able to play a full 16-game season, and you calculate his average points per game into the remaining four games of the season he missed, Ellington would have finished as the 12th-highest scoring running back in standard scoring leagues. While extremely elusive and a great weapon in the passing attack, the 26-year old back does not have the build to continuously carry the ball. The Cardinals need a back like Peterson, who can move the chains and keep the offense from sputtering in tough situations. Head Coach Bruce Arians is creative, and I think he could create the 1-2 punch with Ellington and Peterson that the Cardinals need.

In a similiar situation, 5-foot-9, 209-pound Giovani Bernard has a similar skill set to Ellington. Although he lost value due to bruiser Jeremy Hill handling the feature back duties, Bernard still finished the 2014 Fantasy Football season as a top-20 back, while Hill finished as a top-10 back. In the last game of the season, Hill rushed the ball 23 times for 100 yards, while Bernard hauled in seven receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown catch. Don’t expect Bernard to return to his days as a main back, but he still can be very valuable in PPR leagues. If Arizona wants to fully utilize Ellington, the team needs to find its own Bernard-Hill duo, and Peterson could be the perfect fit.

Peterson’s Fantasy Success with the Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals ranked 31st in rushing yards last season, with an average of 81.8 rushing yards per game. With Ellington playing through injuries and missing games, Kerwyn Williams and Setpfan Taylor were the main backups for Arizona. Again, Peterson does not find himself with too much competition among any organization he may join. Some people may look at Ellington as cutting into some of his Fantasy production, as Peterson is able to perform as a dual-threat back, but Ellington is a compliment to Peterson and not a threat.

If Peterson enters the NFC West, he will face stiff competition. If I have any worries for Peterson, it is that he will be placed in a very physically demanding position, and he may not be able to recover as quickly after games as he would have in his younger days. In a total of 37% of his games for the 2015 season, Peterson would face the third ranked rush defense of the Seattle Seahawks, the seventh ranked rush defense of the San Francisco 49ers and the 14th ranked rush defense of the St. Louis Rams.

If Peterson returns to being human, the NFC West is a tough division for an aging running back. In ProFootballFocus.com‘s 2014 offensive line rankings, Arizona ranked 24th. The Vikings ranked 21st(which isn’t much better), but from the statistics from 2014, the NFC is a tougher division for running backs. I think Fantasy Football player should be more concerned about Arizona’s offensive line and the division, rather than Ellington negatively impacting Peterson’s Fantasy value. I still like him as a top-10 player with the Cardinals, but I’m not sure if I like him in the top five.

For the legendary back, I like his chances for Fantasy success in this order:

  1. Dallas Cowboys
  2. Minnesota Vikings
  3. Arizona Cardinals

In terms of where he will end up, I think this is the most likely scenario:

  1. Minnesota Vikings
  2. Arizona Cardinals
  3. Dallas Cowboys

It’s important to keep up with any Peterson news, but again, I think most of this will play out closer to the 2015 NFL Draft. Successful 30-year old running backs are rare, but if anyone can beat the odds, it’s Mr. All Day.

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Categories: 2015 Fantasy Football, Fantasy Football

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