After leading the league in rushing with 1,760 yds. in '08 to go along with 10 touchdowns, just how high can Minnesota's "Purple Jesus" fly? If recent examples of Brett Favre's various comings and goings are to be believed the answer is: Much higher...
Already the consensus #1 pick in fantasy draft circles and the heir apparent to LT's title of "Best Running Back in the NFL" after only two seasons, Peterson should see a serious uptick from his already prodigious numbers with the attention (deserved or not) that will be paid by opposing defenses to his new signal caller.
As popularized in America by Mark Twain, "There are three kinds of lies: Lies, damned lies and statistics" and thus are bound to be arguments surrounding other various personnel and coaching changes. if you boil it down to its primary participants, it becomes clear that AP (baring injury) is likely looking at season that will verge upon the singularly historical.
In '07, Favre's last with the Packers, featured RB Ryan Grant put up what I predict will be his career high in yards per attempt at 5.1 to go along with 8 TDs, a season long run of 66 and a total of 956 yards. Additionally, he hauled in 30 catches for an additional 145 yards.
In '08, with Aaron Rodgers (a "better" QB than Favre at this point their careers per many analysts) taking the snaps, Grant saw the ball in his hands (running and catching) 99 more times but produced only 116 additional yards. He also made the end-zone four fewer times. Grant's yards per attempt with Rodgers in the huddle dropped to a most pedestrian 3.9.
Does anyone want to bet against me in saying that Grant never returns to a 5.1 average?? Didn't think so...
Then let's look at the flip side...
The Jets' '07 season witnessed the much travelled and marginally above average Thomas Jones who is four years older than Ryan Grant at 29 and with 1,349 attempts on what has traditionally been the cusp of a downturn in RB careers. He put up a sub-par 3.6 yards per attempt average with only a single touchdown, 1,119 rushing yards and a long run of 36 yards.
Bring on Brett Favre in '08 and suddenly Jones finds the Fountain of Youth seeing his average rushing yards jump to 4.5, total rushing yards grow to 1,312 despite 20 fewer handoffs, a long run of 59 yards (twice) and, most remarkably, his running TDs skyrocket to 13.
With AP entering what should be prime three to four years of his RB career, Favre's acquisition by the Vikings could not have come at a better time. Regardless of how you feel about his on again, off again, on again NFL career and the media's infatuation with the league's all time interception leader, it is obvious that his mere presence and threat of the deep ball (ignoring the decline in his skills) opens up numerous opportunities (lanes, lack of defenders in the box, etc.) for the accompanying RB to take advantage of.
So how high can Peterson fly?
Given the significant statistical drop off of Ryan Grant post-Favre and the jump in Thomas Jones' performance with the arrival of Favre, I believe a 2,000 yard season with an average north of 5 yards per carry and 20+ TDs is well within the his grasp. By the end of the '09 season the "Purple Jesus" may not need to be riding on the wings of angels to eclipse the records of lesser, mere mortal running backs.