Across the nation, NFL fans and fantasy owners alike took a double-take upon hearing the news that Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson went down with a knee injury. Little did the football world know that Peterson's injury was as serious.
Peterson went down with the injury sometimes referred to as "The Unhappy Triad." The "unhappy" part of it is quite evident, while the "triad" refers to tears in three areas of the knee: the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), medial collateral ligament (MCL) and the medial meniscus.
Being the physical anomaly AP is, his recovery time moved much faster than that of an "ordinary" individual. Just four months after the surgery, Peterson won a footrace against his teammates and just last week was activated from the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform list), signifying he wants to be ready for Week 1 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Head coach Leslie Frazier said that the next process in Peterson's rehabilitation will be to participate in contact drills with the team and play in a preseason game or two.
So, the question isn't whether Adrian Peterson will return to being a dominant NFL back, but when. The risk could pay off handsomely, but could also absolutely crumble your chances at a fantasy title. Let's weigh the pros and cons. I am usually a glass half-full kind of guy, so let's save the pros for last.
It typically takes NFL backs a year and a half to get back to full strength and perform up to their pre-ACL surgery capabilities. Michael Fabiano of NFL.com does a tremendous job in illustrating how running backs in the past performed only a year after their surgery. The results: not very good.
It isn't until year two that backs return to their past form. Sure, names like Kevin Smith and Deuce McAllister don't strike fear in the hearts of defenses and aren't in nearly the same shape as AP, but the numbers typically don't lie. But then names like Jamal Lewis and Edgerrin James come into play. Both were prolific running backs prior to the devastating injury, only to find their numbers dramatically decrease the year(s) following. Lewis and James did, however, go on to continue their success, but not nearly at the same level.
The simple fact is, no one knows how healthy Peterson is other than Peterson himself. He has insisted that he is healthy and ready to go. But does that mean he'll deliver? The prestigious "doctor to the stars," Dr. James Andrews, doesn't know, Barack Obama doesn't know, hell, even the amazing Stephania Bell of ESPN doesn't even know how or if he will perform up to his old standards, making him a risky pick early on in all draft formats.
Also looming are his legal problems. Peterson was arrested in July after resisting arrest in a nightclub incident. He reportedly became intoxicated at the club and started a scuffle with an off-duty police officer. Two hearings are scheduled, the first on September 27 and the second on November 15. The hearings and arrest are not expected to play any major role in the upcoming season, but stranger things have happened.
What are the pros of drafting Adrian Peterson? Um, it is Adrian freakin' Peterson!
Since his rookie year, Peterson has consistently been one of the top producers in fantasy football, with his best season being in 2008, when he rushed for 1,760 yards and 10 TDs. The year after, Peterson ran for 18 more.
Until last year, Peterson hadn't rushed for less than 1,200 yards or scored less than 10 TDs in a single season. The fumbling issue he had coming out of college and into his first three years seemed to have disappeared over the last two seasons.
Peterson has remained durable over his first five seasons, rushing for over 6,752 yards. The power runner did a great job staying healthy up to last year, missing a mere seven starts since his rookie season. His workload was quite large, but since drafting Toby Gerhart in 2010, the toll on his legs has been diminished. His yards per carry has dropped over the years as well, but simply due to the fact that the Vikings wanted to reduce his workload.
Also, if there is one player in the NFL to come back from an ACL surgery and return to his superhuman-self, it would be AP; much to do with the amount of drive, work ethic and devotion he has to getting back to the game he loves.
So where should Purple Jesus be drafted?
Somewhere between picks 20-30, right before the run of wide receivers begins. With the Vikings allowing him to participate in contact drills and getting some time back under his belt, look for Peterson to accumulate 1,200-1,300 total yards with 8-10 total TDs. The Vikings will absolutely limit him, but they have yet to release any information on if he'll have a carry limit or how they plan to use him early on.
Draft accordingly. Expect the best, but prepare for the worst by handcuffing him with Toby Gerhart. If you have the guile to draft him early enough, you may reap the benefits and pave your own path to the fantasy championship.