Adrian Peterson's Fantasy Value: Last Year's Version of Chris Johnson?

Chaz BingContributor IIIAugust 17, 2012

An injured Adrian Peterson limps off the field.
An injured Adrian Peterson limps off the field.Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Ever since Adrian Peterson entered the NFL he’s been one of the best running backs in the league. His explosive and relentless running style is simply unbelievable, and nobody thought he could maintain his health for more than one season—but he did.

Instead of slowing down, Peterson seemed to increase his intensity year after year, racking up absurd amounts of fantasy points for owners everywhere, becoming one of the most reliable fantasy RBs we’ve seeing in a long time.

Then he tore up his left knee near the end of last year, got surgery, and is now in fantasy-value limbo land for the first time in his career.

It’s hard to bet against a running back that has reached 1,000 all-purpose yards every season (even last year), has had at least 10 TDs per season and has a tireless work ethic.

But when it comes to running backs, knee injuries can change everything. Adrian Peterson’s biggest strength is his fierce competitive drive, but many question whether he’s pushing himself too hard and forcing himself into action before he’s physically ready.

The Vikings aren’t going to rush their most important (and expensive) asset onto the field until they’re completely sure he’s healthy, so if you see Peterson on the field for opening day—he’s going to be ready.

This still doesn’t quell fantasy owners' fears about how reliable Peterson will be during the regular season. The Vikings aren’t expected to win more than five or six games and Peterson is bound to be utilized within a predictable offensive model that will surely see a lot of defenses stuffing the box in an effort to minimize Minnesota’s running threat—putting a lot of wear on a player who will be relied upon to carry a heavy workload.

After last season, people are worried that Peterson might be this season’s Chris Johnson: a complete bust. That won’t happen. Chris Johnson’s issues were not physical, whereas if Peterson remains healthy he’ll be productive, even on a subpar Minnesota team that will not see the red zone very often.

Is he still a top-tier running back? With the recent knee surgery casting doubts on his future performance, he’s probably not the automatic top-five RB pick that he’s been in the past, but it’ll be hard to pass up Peterson when you see his name on the draft. Will he be a first-round pick? Doubtful, but the fact that he’s already running drills in practice and has verbally committed to possibly being back by the season opener are signs that he’s a safer pick than most people realize.

Don’t worry, scooping him up is a better idea than your “but-I-drafted-Chris-Johnson-last-year” mind is telling you.