Welcome to another installment of “Over/Under” where I highlight a player, determine some projections based on past tendencies, then state whether I think they will go “over or under” those projections. The criteria will be different for each player based on position and situation.
This week’s debate will focus on Adrian Peterson. We will put our betting line at 1,492 yards and 12.5 touchdowns.
That seems like a pretty specific number of rushing yards, right? You’ll see why in a minute.
There have been seven players in NFL history rush for 2,000 yards in a single season, O.J. Simpson, Eric Dickerson, Barry Sanders, Terrell Davis, Jamal Lewis, Chris Johnson, and Adrian Peterson. Eric Dickerson currently holds the single season rushing record with 2,105 yards and O.J. Simpson’s 143.1 yards per game are still the best in NFL history, but no running back has ever posted multiple 2,000 yard seasons or followed up their pinnacle season with 1,500+ yards. The closest to do so was Barry Sanders. He followed up his 1997 season of 2,053 rushing yards with 1,491 yards in 1998. In my personal opinion, Barry Sanders is the greatest running back of all time (and also my favorite player to ever play the game). His follow up season to his 2,000 yard campaign is where we set Peterson’s line this year. Can he follow up his historic campaign better than these six runners?
Even though he came up nine yards shy of breaking Dickerson’s 28 year old record, Peterson’s 2012 season might be the most impressive and historic season we’ve ever seen. It was just 371 days earlier when he laid on FedEx field with a catastrophic knee injury he suffered against the Washington Redskins. He would have his knee reconstructed after tearing both his ACL and MCL. Nobody knew when/if he would return for the 2012 season. For such a physical and punishing runner, returning too soon could end his career. There was no way he could be ready for week one, right? We had never seen anyone do it so quickly.
We had never seen Adrian Peterson try it, though.
Just two weeks after reconstructive knee surgery, he was off his crutches and rehabbing his leg. By mid-February he was saying his goal was to be in the starting lineup for week one of the regular season. By the end of March, he was running on dry land and one month later was beating all Vikings teammates in wind sprint drills. The guy is from another planet and shifted his goals from week one of the regular season to participating in training camp with the team.
On August 12, the Vikings activated Peterson from the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list and rejoined his teammates in 11-on-11 drills. Two weeks later, the no-contact rule was lifted on him and he was back just eight months after completely blowing his knee out. He had achieved his goal of starting the Vikings’ week one game. He rushed 17 times for 84 yards and two touchdowns, but most importantly, he did it setback free. He was back and little did we know he was better than ever.
As you can see, through week six, he was averaging 83.16 yards per game and was on pace for 1,330 yards and just five touchdowns. The low touchdown totals were simply the Vikings protecting him from excessive hits near the goal line, in no way was Peterson showing a decline in short yardage running. Everything changed in week seven against a stout Arizona defense when he ripped off 153 yards on 23 carries and scored his first touchdown since the pair on opening day. This game would start a streak of eight consecutive games over 100 yards rushing, including two games featuring over 200 yards. Over the last ten games of the season, he rushed for 1,598 yards and ten touchdowns. If you project those numbers out over an entire season, they would equate to 2,556 yards and 16 touchdowns. Nobody in league history has had a stretch run like Adrian Peterson did in 2012, especially coming off an injury like his.
So what happens now?
Peterson had the advantage of entering 2012 with everyone’s well-wishes and support. Now he enters the 2013 season with expectations, realistic or not. If he can almost break a 28-year old NFL record just eight months after having his knee completely rebuilt, what can he do a year later?
Prior to last year, he had only rushed for 1,400+ yards once in his career, his second year in the league. Now with the second best season the league has ever seen under his belt, expectations for the now 28-year old running back are higher than ever. He is the near unanimous first overall pick in re-draft leagues and his dynasty ADP has held near the sixth overall selection in Ryan McDowell’s offseason ADP tracking. We have him as the RB8 in dynasty startup rankings at DLF.
Even though he has set his personal goal at 2,500 yards rushing for 2013, a goal he has since backed off of in favor of team goals, I’m going to take the slight under on yards and the over on touchdowns. I expect him to finish near 1,400 yards rushing with 14 touchdowns.
I believe the addition of Greg Jennings and rookie Cordarrelle Patterson, along with the continued development of tight end Kyle Rudolph will improve the passing game we saw out of the Vikings in the second half of last season. With a more capable back-up quarterback like Matt Cassell, don’t expect the Vikings to be held hostage by Christian Ponder if he fails to show progress early in the season. It’s a true make or break season for third year passer from Florida State.
What do you think? Will Adrian Peterson continue to break tradition and follow up his 2,000 yard campaign better than his predecessors? Will he go “over or under” 1,492 yards and 12.5 touchdowns? Let me know in the comments section below.
Eric is on Twitter @OlingerIDP.