I get it, it’s Adrian Peterson. Mr. All Day. A rare talent with upside we covet so much from a position where every-down running backs are scarce. This year, Peterson is going in the top 3 in most redraft leagues. That is a big risk for a player with a ton of red flags. Red flags that I don’t hear anyone talking about. I am not saying to avoid Peterson in drafts or that I myself wouldn’t draft him, but to take him in the early first round without considering these facts is very unwise and could derail your path to a championship.
Red Flag #1
Last year before the season, I featured Peterson in an article about running backs hitting the 10,000-yard career mark and how it affected their performance. There were three other active running backs that were near or over 10,000 yards entering last season. Here is how they performed.
Steven Jackson – Jackson entered the season over the 10K mark at 10,681. He finished 2014 missing the final game of the season while battling nagging injuries all season. He failed to rush for over 1,000 yards and finished with 707 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Frank Gore – Gore entered the season needing 47 yards to reach the 10K mark and had no trouble getting those yards. He finished the season with 1,106 yards rushing and a touchdown total of only four. Now at the age of 32, we will see if he can join the small group of running backs that were able to run for over 1,000 yards in the season after achieving 10k.
Maurice Jones-Drew – Jones-Drew entered the season at 8,071. Considering he was 1,929 yards from reaching the 10k mark, it would take two seasons for Jones-Drew to do so. He finished the season with just 96 yards on 43 carries. He missed 5 games during the season and averaged 3.9 carries per game. He has retired from football.
There have been 29 running backs to reach the 10,000-yard mark and 16 since 2000. Of the 29 members in the 10K Club, 18 of them played for at least one season and ran for 1,000 yards. Since 2000, only 3 of these running backs were able to rush for over 1,000 yards after reaching that milestone. Curtis Martin is the only running back to do it twice. Last year, Peterson would have qualified to see if he would join the other 18 members but his suspension cut his season short after 1 game.
There is an average drop of 25.4 rushing yards per game after reaching 10,000 career rushing yards. That is a significant decline for any running back. We will toss out last season and look at his previous 7 seasons in which he averaged 1,446 yards per year. If he declined at the average rate of 25.4 yards per game, you are looking at finishing with 1,039 yards in 16 games. A dropoff of 407 yards rushing. He joins exclusive company by rushing for at least 1,000 yards, but 1,039 is hardly enough to justify a high first round pick.
Red Flag #2
This ties into my first point of running backs hitting 10,000 yards but we will look at this from a fantasy production view. Just focusing on the 16 running backs I mentioned from 2000, Peterson and Gore have yet to play the follow-up season after passing the 10,000-yard mark.
So, of the 14 remaining backs, how many of them would you guess had more fantasy points the following season? Give up? Just one of those backs had more fantasy points the following season and that was Warrick Dunn who scored a measly 5 fantasy points more. Everyone else took a hit. Curtis Martin, Edgerrin James and Corey Dillon were able to come close to matching their previous production. However, LaDainian Tomlinson, Jerome Bettis, Marshall Faulk, Fred Taylor, Steven Jackson, Jamal Lewis, Thomas Jones and Eddie George fell off the cliff with 30 to 120 fantasy point drops. Tiki Barber and Ricky Williams, who made the list, didn’t even play the season after reaching 10,000 yards.
So tell me which category do you think Peterson will fall into? Is he the running back that drops an average of 3 fantasy points or the one that drops an average of 86.1? Assuming he would match his 2013 totals, he would finish with 278 fantasy points but if he sustained a larger regression he would finish with 194.9 points. That would put him outside the top 20 in most PPR leagues. That is a big for a guy you drafted in the first round of your league.
Red Flag #3
Age is a factor. If I am correct, Father Time is still undefeated. Peterson will be 30 when the season begins. We know for a fact that running backs decline when they hit 30 years old. The decline can be slow or they can just fall off a cliff. Since 1990, only four times has a running back 30 years old or older rushed for 1,500 yards. Two of those were by Tiki Barber and the others were by Thomas Jones and Curtis Martin.