Could Adrian Peterson be the Lions' starter at running back this week?

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Frank Schwab
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The Detroit Lions have had six top-43 picks in the NFL draft the past three years. They have used two of those picks on running backs.

That’s one of the most significant investments in running back of any team in the NFL. Most teams have found that running back is a position they can fill cheaply and use valuable draft picks on other positions.

Despite having Kerryon Johnson and D’Andre Swift on their rookie contracts, the Lions reportedly told 35-year-old Adrian Peterson that he could be their Week 1 starter after being cut by the Washington Football Team.

That’s not good.

Adrian Peterson could start on Sunday

Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press said the Lions “told Peterson during the courting process over the weekend that he could be their Week 1 starter.” Peterson signed with Detroit not long after Washington cut him.

That doesn’t necessarily mean Peterson starts Week 1. Detroit hadn’t seen him in person this year, Peterson still has to get up to speed on the offense, and Lions coach Matt Patricia wasn’t committing to Peterson’s role.

"We’ll see," Patricia said, according to Birkett. "It’s Monday and he just got here, so we’ll see how everything goes."

Peterson is one of the NFL’s all-time greats, of course. But in 2020, it would be pretty baffling to start him unless Detroit has no choice due to injuries.

The Lions officially announced the signing of Adrian Peterson this week. (AP Photo/Nick Wass, File)
The Lions officially announced the signing of Adrian Peterson this week. (AP Photo/Nick Wass, File)

Peterson had a solid 2019

Peterson is still capable. He rushed for 898 yards and five touchdowns last season, averaging 4.3 yards on a bad Washington team. But this isn’t an NFL MVP contender anymore. He’s a replacement-level back who doesn’t contribute much in the passing game. It’s remarkable he has done what he has in his mid-30s, but it still doesn’t make much sense to anoint him as a starter if you’ve made significant draft investments at the position.

Johnson has been injured for most of his two NFL seasons but has still flashed talent. Swift missed practice time with a leg injury, and maybe promising Peterson he’d be in the mix to start Week 1 is a sign that Swift is not going to be ready to play. Patricia has not said much about their status.

If Swift and Johnson are ready to go and Peterson starts anyway, that’s a weird decision. It would be another interesting chapter in Peterson’s storied career, just not what you’d want with a couple of second-round running backs on the roster.

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