Forget "All-Day" or "Purple Jesus." If Adrian Peterson miraculously returns to the field and to All-Pro form September 9 versus Jacksonville, he will simply be known as "Superman."
Approximately six months removed from snapping his ACL and MCL against Washington, Minnesota's supernatural healer is again running, cutting and vaulting up and on top of large leather-bound trunks with few limitations.
Where you at Rashard Mendenhall?
The "Knee Three" — Peterson, Mendenhall and Jamaal Charles — will remain under the microscope as the offseason slowly inches toward the opening of training camps in late July. Each appears to be at a different juncture in their recoveries. JC, who shredded his ACL last September, is 80-percent healthy. Mendenhall, just five months and change removed from his setback, is only jogging lightly. And then there's the alien Peterson. The rusher, whose knee-buckle soured owners' eggnog last Christmas Eve, has overcome incredible odds to get back to basic football activities.
Though his rehab has gone swimmingly thus far, Peterson remains uncertain if he'll report to camp on time. From Josina Anderson:
Adrian Peterson on training camp: "To be honest with you I feel like 50-50. I feel like honestly, sitting here telling you the truth, I'll be able to participate doing certain things. I think I'll be able to participate. I'm going to be all the way honest with you. I feel like I will be able to get out there and you call a run play or whatever, I'll be able to go through practice. That's how I feel. That's my mindset; but I'm going to follow the protocol. Whatever the Vikings and their staff want me to do, then I'm gonna do that; but I'm not going to hinder myself. I'm going to let those guys know how I feel, so if I'm able to get out there and get a couple of reps or whatever, then I'm going to participate in that way. But I'm sure they've got my best interests in hand, so we'll work it out."
AD has always been a quick healer, but even if he is prepared to flatten Jags Week 1, history tells us he's far from a sure thing. Deuce McAllister, Terrell Davis and Jamaal Anderson all experienced a considerable decline in production coming off ACL injuries at a similar age (27). Still, every comeback is different and Peterson's reclamation up to this point has exceeded everyone's wildest dreams. That combined with the Vikes' retooled offensive line — first-round pick Matt Kalil should do wonders — and emerging passing attack under Christian Ponder point to a banner season for the four-time Pro Bowler. Even slowed he could again exhibit RB1 colors. After all, his 75-percent is better than most rusher's at 100. But, based on Peterson's current 14.5 ADP and the historical record, he's a pick for the iron-stomached.
For the Noise's coin, Trent Richardson and DeMarco Murray are safer selections at roughly the same juncture in drafts.
• Beanie Wells' Oscar Meyer side could again get the best of him. Slowly recovering from January knee surgery, he remains "hopeful" about his prospects of stepping onto the field when Cards training camp opens in two months. There remains no timetable for his return.
Offensively, Arizona, outside Larry Fitzgerald and rookie Michael Floyd, is littered with question marks. John Skelton and Kevin Kolb are in a dead heat according to Ken Whisenhunt, the backfield is an injury-ridden mess and the offensive line, one of the poorest units in the NFC last year, is also in an undetermined state.
Beanie, if healthy, should be the primary rusher entering 2012. His 1,047 rushing yard, 10-TD campaign from a season ago, was unequivocally his finest effort during his rather rocky three-year career. Inconsistent at times previously, he ran with noticeable conviction in '11 while also improving in pass protection, a skill that caused him to cede touches to Tim Hightower a couple years ago. Still, despite his advancements, Wells could see a workload reduction provided Ryan Williams, who is attempting to bounce back from a torn patella tendon, functions in camp without restriction. Assuming no one experiences any setbacks, a 60-40 timeshare could be implemented, meaning Beanie will be more Weenie than Meanie at his current 48.5 ADP (RB22). Reggie Bush, Doug Martin and Roy Helu, RBs going around the same point in early mocks, are more desirable.
• According to a report broken first by the Houston Chronicle's Steph Stradley, Andre Johnson underwent a knee scope in early May. The brittle receiver claims he felt no pain prior to or after the procedure. Gary Kubiak further downplayed the setback, stressing his star wideout could have participated in team activities if necessary, though reports indicate he will miss up to four weeks.
Obviously, given Johnson's history, the news raises a red flag. Lower body injuries have become commonplace for No. 80. No longer a spring chicken at 30 (He'll be 31 in July), he is an enhanced risk at his rather inflated Round 2 price tag (18.3 ADP). Houston, arguably the best running team in the league, is the Arian Foster/Ben Tate show. The Texans averaged 34.1 rush attempts per game a season ago, tops in the NFL. Admittedly, much of that was precipitated by key injuries, but it's also worth noting in seven starts last season, Johnson eclipsed the 100-yard mark once and found the end-zone twice. That combined with Matt Schaub also returning from a major injury, suggest it would be sage to avoid Johnson like the plague. Roddy White (ADP: 25.6), Hakeem Nicks (27.2) and Brandon Marshall (31.3) are safer selections available some 1-2 rounds later.
Unless you're the thrill-seeking type that relishes gator-wrasslin', free-base jumping and shots of habanera sauce, let someone else deal with the headache.
• Titus Young's cold-cocking of teammate Louis Delmas may be dominating the headlines in Detroit, but, for fantasy purposes, curious owners want to know just who will emerge from the current backfield fray. After all, the Lions' explosive passing offense is an ideal run facilitator.
Jahvid Best continues to progress in his rehabilitation and should be cleared to resume football activities in June. Meanwhile, Mikel Leshoure, still rehabbing his Achilles, expects to be at or near 100-percent when Lions camp opens. If he staves off a possible Goodell-levied suspension stemming from two marijuana charges, he has a great shot of carving out a substantial role this season.
Though the team re-signed Kevin Smith earlier this spring, the hope, according to Lions insiders, is to reinstall the thunder-and-lightning plan they had prior to Leshoure's setback last August. Barring any additional pitfalls, a 50-50 timeshare appears to be in the works with the bulky ex-Illini netting most early down and short-yardage work with Best supplanting him on all passing downs. Presently, both are excellent mid-to-late round grabs (Best: 71.9, Leshoure: 104.5).
• Jonathan Dwyer, who saw little action before a broken foot cut his season short in December, could reprise the Jerome Bettis role in Pittsburgh in short order. As discussed above, Mendenhall is a strong PUP candidate, which could pave the way for a tandem backfield featuring Isaac Redman and Dwyer.
At 5-foot-11, 229-pounds, the Ramblin' Wreck product is a dumpster with feet. His bruising interior style and tackle-shredding abilities are perfect for short-yardage situations. Recall Mendy and Redman combined for 60 red-zone rushing attempts last year, the third-most in the league. It's quite possible Dwyer, who is bouncing back from broken foot suffered in early December, could develop into a low-yardage, high-TD volume, BenJarvus Green-Ellis type RB. And because Mike Tomlin has a fondness for ball control, he could also be deployed as a finisher late in games. Track his progress closely this summer. An impressive camp could propel him to Shocker Special heights.
• Late Monday Tampa agreed to ship Kellen Winslow to Seattle for a conditional pick. Dallas Clark, who hopped aboard the pirate ship earlier in the day, will fill the vacated spot in Western Florida.
The 'Hawks didn't get much out of former Raider Zach Miller last year, but don't anticipate Winslow to immediately overtake the incumbent for targets. More than likely, Pete Carroll is simply copy-catting what New England, among others, have done, by installing a two-TE system to help spur success for Matt Flynn … or Tarvaris Jackson … or Drew Brees-comparison Russell Wilson. Regardless who seizes the reins, Winslow is at best a high-level TE2 in 12-team drafts. Seattle ranked 27th in TE targets last year, and ignored the big men in the red area (no touchdowns).
Meanwhile in the Bay, Clark regains TE1 status. His exploitative abilities against zone coverage combined with Josh Freeman's affection for tight ends — he targeted Winslow 7.6 times per game last year, the third highest amount in the NFL — should vault him back into the position's top-12. Because he hasn't played a full season since 2009, many will question his durability. But with minimal competition and Vincent Jackson/Mike Williams attracting attention, he could be quite good in his new digs. Roughly 75 catches for 850 yards and 5-7 TDs are within reason. Consider him point No. 44 why waiting on a TE might be the savviest move you'll make in 2012.
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