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Purple Reign?

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A player showing up to OTAs typically isn’t a noteworthy activity. There are always players who skip them for a large variety of reasons from contract disputes to just having a preference of working out with their own trainers. Tuesday morning was a little different when Adrian Peterson suddenly walked into Winter Park, the Vikings practice facility. It was the first time Peterson has been on the field with his teammates since week 1 of the 2014 season.

After an off-season filled with a lot of back and forth, accusations of being disrespected and unsupported, as well as numerous trade demands and speculations, very few people expected Peterson to just suddenly show up to the team facility, yet that is exactly what happened. He unceremoniously flew into the Twin Cities Monday night and was at the team facility just a few days after his latest twitter rant about his situation. The Vikings welcomed him back with open arms and it seems all of the issues are behind them at this point. How the public reacts might be a slightly different story, but let’s keep this strictly about the football and fantasy impact of his return with a spotlight on a few players.

Adrian Peterson

It has been nine months since Peterson has played organized football, which is the longest time away from the game he has ever had, including his recovery from the ACL injury. Added into the extended period away from the game you have the fact that Peterson just turned 30 years old this spring. With him at the proverbial cliff for running back production and having an extended absence from the game, could he disappoint fantasy and football fans alike? I suppose that is possible, but I don’t think it is very likely.

[inlinead]Keep in mind exactly who we are talking about here. This is Adrian Peterson, the best running back of this generation and one of the best to ever play the position. This is the guy who has a career yards per carry average of almost five yards (4.96 if we are being picky), almost 100 rushing yards per game played and scores just shy of one touchdown per game. For guys like this, the normal rules of time don’t apply. Jerry Rice posted a 1000 yard season at age 40. Walter Payton had some of his best seasons at age 30 or older. These are the kinds of players we should be looking at when talking about Peterson’s career path, not your normal NFL running back.

I think Peterson can and will be an elite running back in the NFL for a few more seasons. How many? I’m not exactly sure, but I don’t think the normal rules apply to him. With a young quarterback taking the next steps this year and some other new additions to the offense, Peterson should once again regain his role as one of the most productive running backs in football. He’ll continue to be the focal point of the offense and might even catch a few more passes this year than in years past. If his current fantasy owner is a bit scared by the big “three-oh” in the age column, I would definitely try to scoop him up at a discount.

Jerick McKinnon

For all of hoping to get a look at the super athletic McKinnon in a lead role, we are going to be waiting a little while longer. Don’t panic on him just yet though. McKinnon just turned 23 years old and was a little raw as a running back prospect. Getting to watch the best running back in the game today in action for a full year or two is only going to help McKinnon in the long run. He already averaged almost 4.8 yards per carry last season, so there is definitely a lot of potential there. Unfortunately, he won’t get much of an opportunity to shine this season because Peterson rarely comes off the field. If you are a rebuilding team, this might be the perfect time to contact the McKinnon owner and see if they are disheartened enough by the news of Peterson returning to sell McKinnon at a discount.

Teddy Bridgewater

I’m not going to say Bridgewater was great as a rookie, because he wasn’t. However, Bridgewater did show a lot of improvement as the season went on. His best games by pretty much every metric came over the last six or seven weeks of the season with only one exception. That is what you want to see from a rookie quarterback. When you add in some new weapons in the passing game, a healthy offensive line, and the return of Peterson the arrow continues to point up for Bridgewater. I still don’t think he will ever be an elite quarterback, but I think he can be a very solid NFL starter especially with someone like Peterson keeping defenses honest. I’m expecting QB2 level production out of Bridgewater in 2015, which makes him valuable in 2QB leagues, but little more than a backup in standard leagues.

Dallas Running Backs

Peterson grew up in Texas and has made a few comments over the years about playing football in his home state. Mix in Jerry Jones’s affinity for making a big splash from time to time and you get a whole lot of trade rumors involving Peterson going to Dallas. For cap reasons I didn’t think it was ever a real possibility, but it was fun to think about Peterson behind that offensive line with Dez Bryant lined up out wide. Now that this seems to be a non-existent pipe dream for Cowboy fans, it is time to realize their leading rusher for the 2015 season is most likely already on their roster. Someone is very likely going to post a career year behind one of the best run blocking lines in the league. The question is if it will be the often broken Darren McFadden, the often foolish Joseph Randle or a dark horse candidate like Ryan Williams or Lance Dunbar. I don’t think any of them are the long term solution for the Cowboys at the position, but one of them will likely win people an awful lot of fantasy games this year. If I was forced to own one, I would go with Randle, but he is far from a sure thing no matter what he tells the Dallas media.

Arizona Running backs

The other spot often talked about as a landing spot for the disgruntled Peterson was the desert of Arizona. Andre Ellington didn’t live up to expectations last year, and the Cardinals made an awful lot of noise this offseason about wanting to either improve upon him as a starter or wanting to find a complement to pair with him. Peterson returning to the Vikings has to put all of the Ellington owners at ease. His only real competition right now is going to be rookie David Johnson. While I like Johnson, I don’t view him as a bell cow running back in the NFL. I think the most likely outcome at this point in time is for a committee situation to take shape in Arizona with Ellington getting the majority while Johnson takes on the minor role. How large the shares are will depend on Ellington’s healthy as well as Johnson’s ability to transition to the NFL. If I had to guess, I would expect a 75/25 kind of split between the two, but it could go as far as a 50/50 split if Ellington gets nicked up or Johnson progresses better than I expect.

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Jacob Feldman
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Slick
6 years ago

Good stuff Jacob.
Quick question- what is teddy lacking to where he can’t grow into a drew brees?

Adam
Reply to  Slick
6 years ago

Sean Payton??

Jacob Feldman
Reply to  Slick
6 years ago

I think the Sean Payton answer carries a lot of truth to it. Though I think there is more to it than that. Brees is one of the smartest QBs in the game from a football IQ standpoint. Could Bridgewater get there? Maybe, but it took Brees years to get to that point, so we won’t know if Bridgewater can get there or not. The other part comes down to arm talent. I have Bridgewater a notch below Brees in his prime.

Long term, I think Bridgewater could be a back end QB1, in the same territory as Big Ben, Rivers, Romo, etc. I don’t see Brees type of upside with him.

Jim
Reply to  Jacob Feldman
6 years ago

I think someone needs to tell Big Ben that he’s supposed to be a “back end QB1” because he sure as hell isn’t. He was actually a better QB than Brees last year and is 3 years younger. He also has better weapons than Brees at the moment at both RB and WR (and TE arguably… Heeeaaattthhh).

So why is Brees rated at QB7 and Ben is QB10? Big Ben is essentially a younger Drew Brees without the high turnover rate.

Jacob Feldman
Reply to  Jim
6 years ago

One year shouldn’t be the sole factor in determining rankings. If that’s the case, then Nelson and Sanders need to be first round picks in startups. Big Ben has been a starter for 11 seasons. He has one season over 4400 yards and two with more than 28 TDs. Brees has 13 seasons as a starter. 8 of the last 9 seasons are over 4400 yards (the other was 4388) and all of the last 7 over 28 TDs. They aren’t in the same tier when it comes to talent. The fact that Ben had better weapons and is younger but they were nearly identical statistically last season says something.

Jim
Reply to  Jacob Feldman
6 years ago

Fair enough, Brees has the longer track record. But up until 2013 he also threw 150-200 more times than Ben per season. Saying that they “aren’t in the same tier when it comes to talent” is a broad statement that might pertain to fantasy but not the real world. They have almost identical QB rating for their career. Brees has a lot more yards (and attempts) and Ben has a much better TD/int ratio.

They are both on the same level as far as talent, Ben just hadn’t gotten the “opportunity” until a new offense came to town. Ben gets not respect but he is an elite QB for the NFL and finally in fantasy as well.

Brian
6 years ago

I have McKinnon in a couple of leagues and am wondering what should be the asking price for him in a trade? Thanks

Jacob Feldman
Reply to  Brian
6 years ago

In my eyes, McKinnon’s value really hasn’t changed unless you are a contending team in need of a starter this year. His 2015 value took a hit, but dynasty prospects remain the same for me.

big b
6 years ago

After our rookie draft I am sitting on a bunch of RB2 potential. I currently have Charles, Gordon, Murray, Crowell, Ellington, Buck Allen, and David Cobb. After last season I’m a little skeptical of Ellington’s consistency. I see a 20 pt. game followed by a 5 as a regular. I’m loaded at WR, what type of TE do you see as a decent return on Ellington? Is Ertz or Allen about right? Or am I underselling Andre?

Jacob Feldman
Reply to  big b
6 years ago

I think you’re right to be concerned about his consistency, especially if a committee takes shape. Chances are there is someone in your league who still loves Ellington and sees him as an every week RB1 now that it is just him and Johnson. From that owner, you could probably aim a little higher than Ertz and especially Allen. Might be able to pull off something for Olsen, Bennett or maybe even Thomas if the owner is down on him being in Jacksonville.

Coinflip
6 years ago

ADP’s NFL Clock it ticking for sure…It wont be the same when he is no longer on the field. I know McKinnon will get every chance but I am not sure he is Vikes answer after ADP steps aside. Maybe this year will define a better peek at McKinnon’s opportunity and make things more clear.

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