Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson may be targeting a Week 1 return to the NFL, but he still won't be a high-round consideration for me come August.
When we last saw Peterson suffer a gruesome knee injury against the Redskins in December, there were initial fears that AP (1,109 total yards, 13 TDs in 12 games last year) would miss at least half or the entire 2012 season. But after a successful surgery and productive first phase of the rehab, Peterson has stealthily revived the hopes of fantasy owners who had trouble pondering a year without Peterson and/or Steelers tailback Rashard Mendenhall (torn ACL in Week 17).
And yet, I'm leery of making such a high-round investment.
A few years ago, after getting burned by the in-season, post-surgery progressions of some former NFL stars—let's call it "The Darrell Jackson Misery Index"—I developed a few unimpeachable rules for drafting/keeping injured fantasy assets. Such as:
1. Regarding ACL tears or Achilles ruptures, all running backs, wide receivers and tight ends must have at least 10 full months to recover/rehab before being acquired in drafts, free agency or trades.
2. Regarding minor/arthroscopic knee or ankle surgeries, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends injured from August to mid-October will likely be retained on fantasy rosters. For those who incur similar surgeries after the arbitrary date of Oct. 15, they will likely be dropped or traded to another club.
3. Regarding major elbow or shoulder surgeries, all quarterbacks must have at least seven full months to recover/rehab before being acquired in drafts, free agency or trades.
4. Regarding arthroscopic shoulder or elbow surgeries, all quarterbacks must have at least two full months of recovery/rehab before they can be acquired in drafts, free agency or trades. Any QB who doesn't meet this basic standard will likely be dropped or traded during the season.
Within these time-tested rules, Chiefs tailback Jamaal Charles (torn ACL in early September) and Titans receiver Kenny Britt (torn ACL in late September) will garner full draft consideration in August, assuming there are no injury setbacks throughout the spring and summer. That's not to say I'll gladly reach for them on draft day; it simply means they won't be penalized to the extent of Mendenhall.
Which brings us back to Peterson: Has he earned the right to be believed when saying he'll be ready by Week 1? Absolutely.
With a September return, is he a good candidate for 1,000 yards rushing? Probably.
And with a reasonably productive preseason, should Peterson merit Rounds 1-4 consideration? Most definitely.
Bottom line: Peterson is one of the league's most accomplished runners (6,752 rushing yards, 67 total TDs) and one of my favorite players to watch on NFL Sunday Ticket. But the decision to pass on him, for Rounds 1-5, is simply the culmination of hard lessons from seasons past.
It's nothing personal.
Jay Clemons can be reached on Twitter, day or night, at @ATL_JayClemons.