If you haven't yet seen Peterson's 43-yard run against the Jets, here's a link. I'm not sure how long the NFL typically allows copyrighted material to just sit out there, totally accessible. They seem to prefer burying it deep in the video catacombs of the league's website. So you'd better view that clip now.
It was obviously a well-blocked play. But the spin to shake Dyson, the sprint past Vilma, and the total obliteration of Barrett were all Peterson's doing. It's not a run that you're going to see from Chester Taylor. In fact, it's not a run you'll see from many of the 28 players ranked ahead of Peterson in the Yahoo! experts RB ratings.
Two games into the Vikings' preseason, I'm willing to officially declare that we blew this one – and the Yahoo! experts are hardly alone. A little benchmarking within the fantasy community reveals general concurrence on Adrian Peterson. He's universally ranked in the mid- or late-20s at his position, somewhere near Julius Jones and Ahman Green. I rated him 27th among the running backs when we updated the Yahoo! rankings two weeks ago.
That's just herd behavior. It's going to make us all look stupid. Or rather, it would make us look stupid if our jobs involved any performance measurements or accountability. We're really all just parroting the same concerns about Peterson's durability, the mileage accumulated at Oklahoma, and his potential job-share with Taylor. Meanwhile, we've been raving about the value of guys like Marshawn Lynch, Brandon Jacobs, DeAngelo Williams, Ladell Betts and Jerious Norwood. Like Peterson, they're all getting taken in the seventh round or later in Yahoo! drafts.
Adrian Peterson is, without regard to system or projected role, better than those guys. They're still excellent value picks, and they're all capable of having terrific fantasy seasons. But of all the backs currently ranked outside the top 15, Peterson is the guy most likely to be a top-five fantasy draft pick in 2008.
This really isn't just an overreaction to a single preseason run against a user-friendly defense. That play – and the whole drive, really – was merely a reminder of how utterly dominant Peterson can be. It seems ridiculous that we're treating him with such skepticism, fantasy-wise. Let's revisit the Yahoo! pre-NFL Draft scouting report on Peterson. Here's the way it concludes: "His best football is ahead of him. One of the best natural runners over the past few decades and destined to be an annual Pro Bowl performer."
That seems about right. It certainly doesn't describe a player who should be ranked 28th at his position, even if he is a rookie who, for the moment, is part of a running back committee.
Let's consider the other committee member, Chester Taylor. He's a perfect complementary player. The area in which we all expect Peterson to struggle is receiving, and that's one of Taylor's great strengths. But by the final weeks of the season – the fantasy playoffs, in other words – if both Peterson and Taylor are healthy, well … it's the NFL. Opportunity finds talent. Or talent finds opportunity. There's an appropriate sports cliche here somewhere.
If Peterson and Taylor are splitting carries by Week 15, the percentages should be severely in Peterson's favor. We've just badly undervalued him. His average Yahoo! draft position (82.2) and his placement in the preseason RB rankings don't match his evident talent.
A.J. Daulerio knew this. He drafted Peterson in the second round of the Yahoo! Tank Johnson Desert Classic, with the 22nd overall pick. And then I ripped the selection in the draft recap. That was profoundly stupid. Daulerio looks like a mad genius to me right now, and I'm feeling considerable shame.
Still, it's nothing compared to how David Barrett must feel.