If Adrian Peterson Breaks Eric Dickerson's Record, Where Will He Rank All-Time

Lou RomContributor IDecember 17, 2012

ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 16: Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings slips a tackle attempt by Craig Dahl #43 the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on December 16, 2012 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

One of sport's so-called unbreakable records is dangerously close to becoming history.

Adrian Peterson, not even a year after having surgery to repair a torn ACL, is now just 294 yards away from eclipsing Eric Dickerson's 2,105 yards with two games to play.

Peterson has proved he's back, better than ever, from surgery.

His successful return was punctuated Sunday with a 212 yard performance against the St. Louis Rams that left his teammates in awe. 

But if he catches Dickerson is he the best ever? Top 5 or Top 10? How does Peterson rank with the greats like Jim Brown, Gayle Sayers, Barry Sanders and Dickerson?

Peterson will join Dickerson, O.J. Simpson and six other backs in NFL history as the only to rush for 2,000 yards in a season. 

That feat puts him in good company, but his career yards at this point—unless he goes hog-wild the next two weeks—are still less than 9,000 after this season ends.

In evaluating the best ever, whether running back or quarterback or defensive linemen, it typically comes down to two major points for those engaged in the debate: 

First is longevity. If greatness comes from doing it longer than anyone or gaining more yards than anyone else than Peterson has a long way to go to be a Top 10 back.

However, if you tend to give more weight to the quality of a running back's top years, then Peterson is among the best.

Peterson, should he get to Dickerson's record, will do so with a 6-yard-plus clip, a remarkable season. Through his career he has averaged 5.1 yards per carry. 

Dickerson's only 5-plus per carry season was his 1984 record year. Sanders and Simpson both averaged 6-plus per carry their 2,000 yard seasons.

The fact that Peterson's season comes right after reconstructive knee surgery makes it all the more impressive, but that should not be a factor in evaluating his greatness as a running back. 

Peterson, when all is said and done, will end up a Top 10 back if he remains healthy and gets at least three more solid years under his belt.

But if he were to retire today he would round out my Top 20, as seen below: 

  1. Jim Brown
  2. Barry Sanders
  3. Gale Sayers
  4. O.J. Simpson
  5. Emmitt Smith
  6. Walter Payton 
  7. Earl Campbell
  8. Eric Dickerson
  9. Marshall Faulk
  10. Marcus Allen
  11. Tony Dorsett
  12. Curtis Martin
  13. LaDanian Tomlinson
  14. Jamal Lewis
  15. Adrian Peterson
  16. Jerome Bettis
  17. Franco Harris
  18. Edgerrin James
  19. Thurman Thomas
  20. John Riggins