First Down: Toby Gerhart, ‘Looking like I’m going to be the starter from Day 1′

Brad Evans

This draft season there will be no player scrutinized more than Adrian Peterson. The rusher, just seven months removed from snapping his ACL/MCL in Washington, has driven a wedge between several fanalysts and gamers alike. Some see the glass half empty. Others half full.

Toby Gerhart's recent words, however, may finally force blind optimists to see the light.

In an interview with ESPN 1500 in the Twin Cities, the presumed backup lent insight into Leslie Frazier's possible early season blueprint:

Toby Gerhart thinks Adrian Peterson will be in uniform for the Minnesota Vikings' season opener, but that doesn't mean Gerhart expects to be a backup out of the gate.

"I'm looking, going into the season, to have a big role," Gerhart told 1500 ESPN's "Sunday Morning SportsTalk" show.

"I don't know how big it will be. But I'm looking like I'm going to be the starter from Day 1 and have to be the starter all the way on through until Adrian is back and ready and full-speed. I'm excited about that. I'm ready to embrace that and go out and help this team win and really show people what I can do."

All indications are Peterson will open training camp this week on the active/physically unable to perform list and would be limited in the early going if he meets his goal of playing in the Sept. 9 opener against Jacksonville, less than 8½ months out from surgery.

"I think he will (play in the opener)," Gerhart said. "You can never be surprised with Adrian. The way he comes to work every day, the way he pushes himself -- he was flying around, straight-line speed, moving out there, racing Percy up the hill, doing conditioning stuff."

Gerhart's words add another log to the anti-Adrian fire.  At this juncture, it's impossible to count Peterson out completely for Week 1, but it's becoming increasingly clear the incumbent will play a secondary role until the coaching staff feels comfortable with the former rush king shouldering his customary workload. That scenario could play out for a week or six, which is exactly the reason why owners shouldn't pray at the altar of the Purple Jesus (17.2 Y! ADP) until at least Round 3 in 12-team drafts. And, even at that discounted price, he may not turn a profit.

Recall, Gerhart was spectacular in five starts last season netting two touchdowns, 4.4 yards per carry and 90.6 total yards per game. Given his interior brawn, plus versatility and surprising burst, he is more than capable of carrying a burdensome load. If he racks 15-20 carries per game from the get-go, he's a RB2 available at a RB5 price (124.4 Y! ADP). Matt Forte (21.8), Jamaal Charles (32.5) and Fred Jackson (39.7), all going after Peterson in average Y! drafts, are much more appealing.

And don't assume Gerhart's value will suddenly plummet after the first couple weeks of the regular season.

Hypothetically, let's say No. 32 performs terrifically out of the gate, a believable outcome. Minnesota opens with Jacksonville and Indianapolis, the latter of which yielded the third-most fantasy points to RBs a year ago.  A pair of standout performances would allow Frazier and company to buy extra time with their superstar. Think about it. If the ground game is executing at a high level with Gerhart, why would you rush Peterson back? Even when he does return, a timeshare of sorts could be implemented.

And therein lies the problem for the AP faithful. Owners who ignorantly choose to sink an early round pick in Peterson, hoping to get 13 or 14 spectacular weeks, are truly living in a fantasy world ruled by nunchuk -wielding turtles and talking rats. It simply doesn't appear likely.

Let Gerhart's words above be your final warning. Draft Peterson, and chances are disappointment follows.

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