How Realistic Is Adrian Peterson's Goal of 2,500 Rushing Yards?

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How Realistic Is Adrian Peterson's Goal of 2,500 Rushing Yards?
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

In 2012, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson had one of the more remarkable seasons in recent memory.

What he wants to do for an encore would blow that out of the water.

As Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com recently reported, Peterson told NFL Network that he has his 2013 goals set substantially higher than last year's 2,097 rushing yards:

"It's not something I'm going to focus on early. I'll let the chips fall where they may. I've got my bar set for 2,500 yards. If I can go over that, the record will be shattered. But ultimately I want a couple rings. You gotta start at one."

Wait, what?

Apparently, Peterson took missing Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record by all of seven yards a season ago rather personally.

On the one hand, after Peterson's performance last year, it would seem foolish to dismiss any claims he might make, no matter how wild they might appear on their faces.

After all, it wasn't that long ago that Peterson was writhing in pain on the turf at FedEx Field.

On Dec. 24, 2011, Peterson tore his ACL and MCL in a game against the Washington Redskins. The injury left his availability for the 2012 season very much in doubt.

Turns out he was available, all right. And then some.

Peterson not only played in Week 1, but had the second-best season by a running back in NFL history. In addition to those 2,097 yards, Peterson averaged a very robust six yards a carry, scored 12 touchdowns and all but single-handedly led the Minnesota Vikings to the postseason.

With all that said though, and with all due respect to the reigning NFL MVP, 2,500 yards isn't happening.

To hit that benchmark, Peterson would have to average 157 yards a game, which according to Pro-Football-Reference would shatter the NFL record for average yards per game in a season.

Player

Year

Average Yards Per Game

O.J. Simpson, Buffalo

1973

143.1

Jim Brown, Cleveland

1963

133.1

Walter Payton, Chicago

1977

132.3

Eric Dickerson, L.A. Rams

1984

131.6

Adrian Peterson, Minnesota

2012

131.1

As you can see, not only would Peterson have to try to become the only player in NFL history to average over 150 yards a game, but he's the only running back in the last 25 years to even top 130.

Then there's the matter of how many carries it would take to hit that mark.

Among running backs who had more than 200 carries in a season, the record for average yards per tote is held by two men. The great Jim Brown averaged 6.4 yards a carry in 1963, and Jamaal Charles of the Kansas City Chiefs matched that mark in 2010.

Even if Peterson topped that mark considerably and averaged say 6.7 yards a carry, he would need an eye-popping 374 carries to hit the 2,500 mark.

Fans of the Vikings do not want Adrian Peterson carrying the ball that many times.

The reason is "the curse of 370," a phenomenon that has been tracked for some years in fantasy football.

As Tristan Cocckroft of ESPN pointed out back in 2011, as of that time there had been 28 instances where a running back received 370 carries in a season. With the exception of LaDainian Tomlinson in 2003, every one of those players saw a drop in production the following year, some precipitously.

Twenty of the 28 missed at least one game the following season, and the group averaged 3.3 games missed.

In other words, as I said, Vikings fans don't want Adrian Peterson to carry the ball 370 times in 2013. It does not bode well for 2014.

Finally, there's the fact that no running back in NFL history has topped 2,000 yards in consecutive years. In fact, every running back who has topped 2,000 yards in a season experienced a significant regression in statistical production the next year.

Player

Year

Rushing Yards

Year

Rushing Yards

Eric Dickerson

1984

2,105

1985

1,234

Jamal Lewis

2003

2,066

2004

1,006

Barry Sanders

1997

2,053

1998

1,491

Terrell Davis

1998

2,008

1999

211

Chris Johnson

2009

2,006

2010

1,364

O.J. Simpson

1973

2,003

1974

1,125

In short, not only would Adrian Peterson have to follow what is now the second-best single season in NFL history by a running back with an even better one, but he would have to better that year with a campaign that bucks history while shattering records across the board.

As good as Adrian Peterson is, even he isn't pulling that off.

All this isn't meant as any sort of knock on "All Day." He's a phenomenal football player who now has the single-game rushing record and one of the best years by a player at his position in the history of the National Football League.

By the time his career is over, it appears that we'll be discussing Adrian Peterson in the same breath as Jim Brown, Walter Payton and Barry Sanders, as one of the best running backs to ever lace them up.

We just won't be talking about him as the guy who gained 2,500 yards in 2013.

 

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