Fantasy Football 2012: Darren McFadden vs. Adrian Peterson

Marco PatitucciContributor IIMay 10, 2012

KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 02:  Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings carries the ball as linebacer Justin Houston #50 of the Kansas City Chiefs defends during the game on October 2, 2011 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

It’s the end of the first round (or early in the second round) of your fantasy draft and you’re looking for a RB. This potential scenario could leave you choosing between two very talented backs coming off of injuries.

Darren McFadden and Adrian Peterson are two big name players that had disappointing 2011 seasons. However, beyond last season’s disappointments, the two backs have had very different starts to their careers. While McFadden has yet to realize his fantasy potential or complete a 16-game season in his four-year career, Peterson’s first four years were phenomenal—he averaged 1,456 yards rushing and 13 TDs before last season’s injury-shortened effort (970 yards, 12 TDs). 

In addition, McFadden’s lingering foot issues contrast with Peterson’s one major knee injury. Peterson underwent reconstructive knee surgery on December 30, 2011 and has started rehabbing the reconstructed ACL and repaired MCL in his left knee (via ESPN).

Vikings trainer Eric Sugarman recently said via ESPN that he couldn’t guarantee that Peterson would be ready for the Vikings’ first regular season game. McFadden will be a full participant in the Raiders’ OTAs and minicamp.

McFadden is one of the few backs in the NFL with the potential to reach 2,000 total yards (rushing plus receiving) but he’ll have to stay on the field to get there. The Raiders are now without super handcuff back Michael Bush and are hoping this is the year McFadden can put a complete season together. The glimpses of what that statistical season may look like are promising.

In 2010, he played 13 games, gaining 1,157 yards on the ground and 507 through the air with 10 total TDs.

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 16:  Darren McFadden #20 of the Oakland Raiders runs the ball in for a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns at Coliseum on October 16, 2011 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

McFadden was (on average) the 23rd player off the board in fantasy drafts last year and he gave elite RB production—for six weeks. A Week 7 mid-foot sprain, later reported as a Lisfranc injury, kept McFadden out the remainder of the season. In the past, he’s had issue with turf toe as well.

Not counting Week 7, where he had just two carries before exiting the game, his 2011 stats project out to a 16-game total of 1,627 rushing yards, 403 receiving yards and 13 TDs.

So the potential for McFadden to be a top five back is there—he just hasn’t done it yet.

For Peterson, he’s been putting up top-five RB numbers since he entered the league in 2007.  He will be 26 years old—considered prime years for a RB—but enter his sixth season coming off career lows in attempts and yards.

The good news is Peterson continued to tote the rock with authority and averaged an impressive 4.7 yards per carry when he was on the field in 2011. He also put up his fifth straight season of double-digit TDs.

But the combination of the injury and a decrease in receiving numbers makes me wonder if Peterson’s best fantasy days are behind him.

Peterson had just 18 receptions for 139 yards in 2011. Of the Top 10 scoring fantasy RBs in 2011, only Atlanta’s Michael Turner had fewer receptions and most others had at least three times the receiving production of Peterson. McFadden had 19 receptions in just six games in 2011.

If Peterson has even a little less success on the ground and/or Toby Gerhart gets more carries with the hope of preserving Peterson for the whole season, Peterson could fall out of the top 10 fantasy RBs.

McFadden has potential for a huge fantasy season in 2012 as he is a powerful runner and talented receiver. Also, at just 24 years old, he should be reaching his physical peak. But McFadden is also more likely to miss time based on recent history. 

Peterson’s consistency throughout his career is valuable. He is more likely to stay on the field and give the quality production that wins fantasy championships. Of course, monitoring Peterson’s rehab up until draft day will be important, but Peterson is the selection most likely to yield appropriate value.