The running back market is weird this year. The old days of selecting Adrian Peterson in the first round are gone, and new, younger players like David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell are getting the star treatment in drafts. The movement from featured backs to running-backs-by-committee has been going on for years now, but somehow Peterson still runs his way onto fantasy rosters every year. Sure, he’s getting older, and no one really knows how much he has left in the tank. His ADP this year has sunk faster than Brock Osweiler’s demand as a starting quarterback. But what if he still does have something left? He’s proven his doubters wrong before, and if the stars align just one more time for him, Adrian Peterson could end up being the steal of this year’s draft.
NFL Fantasy Draft Steal Adrian Peterson
Adrian Peterson’s ADP currently puts him as the 28th running back, giving him about an eighth or ninth round grade per Fantasy Pros. It’s a hard fall from grace for a guy who usually goes high in the first. But he’s been a safe pick almost every time, and has never gone under 1,200 rushing yards when starting every game of the season (Pro-Football Reference).
Sure, age is a question, and rightly so. Most running backs fall off the face of the planet after age 30, and Peterson is already 32. But Peterson is one of the all-time greats, and most of the greats have a longer shelf life.
Take guys like Curtis Martin, Emmitt Smith, Tiki Barber, and even Fred Taylor. They all had 1,000 plus seasons over the age of 30. Only a few of those guys did it at 32, so admittedly, there is some risk.
But champions are born from people who take risks, and with his lowest ever ADP, drafting Peterson is a risk worth taking.
New Environment and Cast
The biggest reason to trust Peterson even with his advanced age is his situation with the New Orleans Saints. He now plays with future Hall of Fame quarterback, Drew Brees. Through his entire career, Peterson played with mostly no name quarterbacks save for Brett Favre in 2009 and 2010.
With a lack of fear for a competent passing game, coaches just stacked the box against Peterson almost his entire career. Even with the extra defenders stopping the run, he still routinely annihilated defenses.
Now, with Brees as his field general, those eight-man boxes will disappear. Even if he’s lost a step, there will likely be at least one less defender trying to stop him. That will be all he needs to break free against defenses.
In addition to playing with a much better quarterback in Brees, Peterson is also playing with a much better offensive line than he had for the Minnesota Vikings. Pro Football Focus had the Vikings offensive line rated as number 29 in the league for 2016.
With line play that bad, it’s no wonder he didn’t look good in the limited time he had on the field. Compare that to New Orleans, which was rated at number 14. If their star left tackle Terron Armstead can stay healthy this season, they will get even better.
Peteron’s biggest obstacle this year will likely be playing time. He is expected to begin the season splitting carries with Mark Ingram. Ingram is no scrub when he’s on the field, putting up 1,043 yards rushing in 2016 (Pro Football Reference).
But, emphasize the “when he’s on the field” part. 2016 was the first time in Ingram’s six-year career that he started all 16 games. Don’t be surprised if Peterson puts a stranglehold on that starting position the second Ingram misses a game.
Competing for a starting job is something that is new to Pterson, but he always plays with a chip on his shoulder. He harnesses the hatred of his doubters and uses it as motivation to push himself to his limits. If Peterson is still there in the middle to late rounds of draft, don’t hesitate to take him. He might just be the steal this year that brings home the championship.