Why Adrian Peterson Can Repeat Last Season's Success

Matt WardenContributor IIIJuly 31, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 30: Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings after a game against Green Bay Packers on December 30, 2012 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defeated the Packers 37-34. (Photo by Andy Clayton King/Getty Images)
Andy King/Getty Images

They may not call him “Wolverine”, but last season proved that nothing can keep Adrian Peterson down for long.

Less than a year after suffering a devastating knee injury in Week 16 of 2011, Adrian Peterson ran through, around and over defenses to rush for 2,097 yards and 12 touchdowns en route to earning NFL MVP Honors.

Not only did Peterson shock the world by recovering from a torn MCL and ACL in just nine months, but he posted one of the best seasons in NFL history in his return, falling just nine yards short of the single season rushing record.

In his NFL career, Peterson has averaged at least 235 carries, 1,250 yards and 10 touchdowns with the exception of his shortened 2011 campaign. According to pro-football-reference.com, his 99.4 yards per game places him at No. 3 all-time.

He’s consistent, durable in the sense that you can’t keep his production down despite injuries and he’s just confident enough to breakout again next year.

Peterson’s career averages per season after six years in the National Football League are 293 carries, 1,475 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. Take away Peterson’s knee injury in 2011 and he was on pace to push his career averages to 1,529 yards and 13 touchdowns per year.

Peterson is coming off of his most carries in a season, rushing 348 times last year. In an article published on nationalfootballpost.com, Joe Fotenbaugh notes that in the last ten years 77 backs have amassed 300 carries in a season, and 73.3 percent of those players went on to score fewer fantasy points the following year.

Peterson has not only carried the ball at least 300 times twice before in 2008 and 2009, but his production remained similar if not better the following seasons. Peterson has proven to be the epitome of consistency in a league in which the health of running backs can diminish at any time.

For a player who always seems to be nagged with some sort of ache, Peterson has remained shockingly durable in his NFL tenure. AD currently boasts a career average of 14.83 games played per season, even with his four games missed in 2011.

To put this into perspective, Eric Dickerson averaged 15 games per season in his first six years, Emmitt Smith averaged 15.5 and Barry Sanders also averaged 14.83 per season.

All in all, Peterson is already one of the more durable backs to ever play the game which benefits him next season, and even the next few after that.

Based on number of games played alone, Peterson seems to be somewhat superhuman. Add his super-confidence to the mix, and the sky seems to be the limit.

Despite the mild disappointment of falling just nine yards shy of the single-season rushing record last season, Peterson’s poise couldn't be any higher as he told ESPN on Monday that he’ll break Emmitt Smith’s All-Time rushing record in Week 16 of the 2017 NFL season.

"Whoo. That's pushing it, huh? But hey, pushing it is the only way to do it. You know it," Peterson said.

That trademark confidence and willingness to set such high goals is what has allowed Peterson to average 1,475 rushing yards per season to this point. If he continues this pace, he would break Smith’s record at some point in 2019.

In order to accomplish the giant goal of eclipsing the mark in 2017, Peterson would need to average just over 1,900 yards per season the next five years.

While it is highly unlikely any player could sustain such an average, especially after a 2,000 yard season, Peterson’s production is undeniable.

After six seasons, Peterson’s consistency has placed him at No. 33 on the all-time rushing yards list, his durability has allowed him to carry the ball 293 times per year, equal to that of Emmitt Smith’s career average per season and his self-confidence is unparalleled.

In my opinion, Peterson will break the all-time rushing yards record before he retires, but I don’t see it happening in 2017. With statistics as consistent as his, it's entirely possible and I would not be surprised if it happened.

Two-thousand yards rushing has been eclipsed in a single-season only seven times in the history of the NFL. Peterson has everything a back needs to become the only back to do it twice.

No one will ever call Adrian Peterson "Wolverine", but after next season, I predict that another consistent season will earn him an honorary Superman moniker.