How exactly do you separate two dominant running backs from two different eras?
In the case of Barry Sanders and Adrian Peterson, you pretty much don't.
Unfortunately, as you'll soon see, the numbers and achievements don't offer much separation of the two. In this case, you might be better off flipping a coin in trying to determine the ultimate winner.
Blessed with an unnatural cutback ability and jaw-dropping elusiveness, Sanders was quite arguably the most exhilarating player to watch of all time, and his numbers back that up.
In just 10 seasons, he averaged 99.8 rushing yards per game on 5.0 yards per carry en route to 15,269 total rushing yards. He racked up an average of 9.9 rushing touchdowns per season to go along with an extra 292 yards and one touchdown through the air.
While he had several immensely productive individual years, his best came in 1997 when he amassed 2,358 yards from scrimmage (2,053 via the ground) and 14 total touchdowns on his way to sharing the AP MVP with Brett Favre.
Only once did Sanders fail to record at least 1,300 rushing yards in a season, and that came in 1993 when he still recorded 1,115 in just 11 games.
In addition to his MVP award, Sanders was named to the Pro Bowl and All-Pro team all 10 of his seasons (six-time First-Team All Pro), led the league in rushing four times and won the AP Offensive Player of the Year twice (in addition to '97, also in '94).
Many believe if Sanders—who sits third on the all-time rushing list—hadn't retired prematurely, there would be zero question whatsoever about his rank among all ball-carriers—No. 1.
While Sanders cut up defenses with his shiftiness, Peterson annihilates them with an overwhelming combination of size, power and speed.
Through six seasons, the Minnesota Vikings superstar has tallied 8,849 rushing yards and 80 total touchdowns.
But if you compare him with Sanders on a per-game and per-carry basis—as the Hall of Famer has four years on the youngster—the similarities are eerie.
Sanders averaged 5.0 rushing yards per attempt (4.9866 to four decimal spots). Peterson is averaging 5.0 (or 5.0450). Sanders averaged 99.8 rushing yards per game. Peterson is averaging 99.4. Sanders averaged 19.1 receiving yards per game and 1.0 receiving touchdowns per season. Peterson is at 17.1 and 0.67.
Peterson has the legend beat in his ability to find the end zone (0.9 per game to Sanders' 0.71), but other than that, there is very little separating the two in terms of average numbers.
Also much like the former Lion, Peterson has five Pro Bowls in six seasons, five All-Pro team selections, has led the league in rushing twice and won the AP MVP (and Offensive Player of the Year) in 2012.
That most recent achievement, which is fresh on the minds of the voters, may be what propels Peterson to the cover of the famous video game.
Proving he was indeed half human, half machine, "All Day" rushed for 2,097 yards and 12 touchdowns in a season that began just over eight months after he tore his ACL. It was a feat that will go down as one of the most unbelievable in NFL history.
Peterson has rolled through this tournament (90 percent of the vote against LeSean McCoy, 81 percent against Rob Gronkowski, 70 percent against Robert Griffin III, 64 percent against Arian Foster), and although his career mirrors Sanders' quite remarkably, he looks to have the clear advantage in this particular competition.
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