Minnesota Vikings: Ranking Adrian Peterson Among Minnesota's Best Running Backs

Mike NelsonCorrespondent IJune 13, 2012

In five NFL seasons Adrian Peterson is Minnesota's franchise leader with 64 rushing touchdowns.
In five NFL seasons Adrian Peterson is Minnesota's franchise leader with 64 rushing touchdowns.Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

When Adrian Peterson touches the football, people take notice—not just defenses and Minnesota Viking fans. The entire NFL and its fanbase are on watch.

Television producers hold their breath to see if this touch is the touch they need to have cued up for their highlight package. Writers take note of the down, distance and point in the game so they don't have to look it up later.

That is because as his former offensive coordinator Darrel Bevel said, “At any moment, Adrian can take the ball the distance.”

As Ron Burgundy might say if he possessed Peterson’s body, “I’m kind of a big deal. People know me.”

But if for some reason you don’t know Adrian Peterson and have lived under a rock for the previous five years, I will educate you.

To begin, he's the best running back in Minnesota’s franchise history.

Even if his career ended today, just five years in, he deserves the label as Minnesota’s best. And it’s not difficult to justify.

Over his five-year career, Peterson rushed for 6,752 yards, 64 touchdowns, averaged 4.8 yards per carry, and caught 137 passes for 1,309 yards and three touchdowns.

He set the NFL record for most rushing yards in a single game when he rushed for 296 yards against the San Diego Chargers on Nov. 4, 2007—that was his ROOKIE season.

That same year, he accumulated the third-most combined net yards in a single game with 361 against the Chicago Bears on Oct. 14. He ended 2007 by with the AP Rookie of the Year award.

The former Oklahoma star is a four-time Pro Bowl member (would have been five if not for his torn ACL in 2011) and was twice named to the first-team All-Pro (2008, 2009).

His 64 rushing touchdowns are the franchise record, with Chuck Foreman and Bill Brown maintaining second place with 52. His 6,752 rushing yards are second most in franchise history, with Robert Smith sitting atop the leader board with 6,818 yards.

Peterson only rushed for fewer than 1,000 yards in 2011 after a torn ACL ended his season after 12 games. He posted the lowest rushing touchdown total of his career in 2008 with 10.

For me, discussions about Minnesota's best running back start and end with Adrian.

The three closest competitors to Peterson for title of Minnesota’s best running back are Robert Smith, Chuck Foreman and Bill Brown. As aforementioned, Smith is the franchise’s leading rusher (6,818 yards) and Foreman and Brown are tied for second in franchise history with 52 rushing touchdowns.

Brown played longer than any other aforementioned player. His career lasted 13 seasons, 12 of which were in Minnesota (1962-1974). In addition to his 52 rushing touchdowns, he rushed for 5,757 yards and caught 284 passes for 3,177 yards and 23 touchdowns during his Minnesota career.

The statistics Brown posted are strong. But he never rushed for more than 1,000 yards and rushed for double-digit touchdowns just once (11 in 1968). He was named one of Minnesota’s 50 greatest players in 2010 (along with Smith and Foreman) as he should be.


Brown is the franchise’s fourth-best running back

He's just not on Peterson's level.

Smith wore purple and gold for eight seasons. During that time, he recorded 32 rushing touchdowns, averaged 4.8 yards per carry (matching Peterson) and caught 178 passes for 1,292 yards and six touchdowns.

He rushed for over 1,000 yards four times (the last four years of his career) and never recorded double-digit rushing touchdowns (in his defense, Minnesota was overly reliant on the passing game during his time).

Smith retired from football at age 28 with plenty left in the tank. His numbers could be much better had he stuck around, but we’ll never know.


Smith is the third-best running back in franchise history

Foreman rode the Viking ship for seven seasons (1973-1979). He was named to five Pro Bowls (1973-1977) and earned one first-team All-Pro honor (1975). In 1973, he earned the AP Offensive Rookie of the year.

He rushed for 5,887 yards and caught 336 passes for 3,057 yards and 23 touchdowns during his career in Minnesota. He averaged 3.8 yards per carry too.

His resume is stellar. But when placed next to Peterson’s, it just isn’t on the same level. It’s like comparing a student with a 3.5 GPA to one with a 4.0. Both are talented, but one reigns over the other.  


Foreman is the second-best running back in franchise history

Just five years into his career, Peterson has proven himself better than these Minnesota greats. He's the king of the hill. He has shattered numerous records and still has more to eclipse. He's a treat to watch, and barring serious injury, will make his way toward more records too.