How good is Adrian Peterson? Wow… should I even answer that? His performance on Sunday against the Browns confirmed something for me that I had been toggling with the last couple of weeks: He’s the best back that I’ve ever seen. Notice the key words in that sentence are “that I’ve ever seen.” I’m 27 as of this posting. I’ve seen Barry Sanders play, Emmitt Smith play, Marshall Faulk, Jerome Bettis, LaDainian Tomlinson and none of those guys offered what AP does.
The combination of size, speed and power is mind blowing. Tomlinson and Faulk were probably better pass catchers and route runners than Peterson but when you grade a running back, you should be grading them for what their job title is: Running Back. And nobody that I’ve seen runs quite like AP. Ok I know he ran wild against the Browns but I’ve also seen AP run insane against the Bears, Chargers and Packers. People will argue that Sanders was probably the best open field runner ever but watching Lions games every Thanksgiving, Sanders stats would usually read for gains of 1,1,-2,3,-1,4,1 and 50. AP does his damage consistently and even when he gets stacked at the line, you can believe whoever tackled him is walking away from the pile nursing some sore body part.
Dealing pain is something Bettis made legendary during his first few years in St. Louis until the end of his storied career in Pittsburgh. Bettis’ listed weight usually hovered around the 250 mark but seriously, he had to be somewhere between the 265-285 range. They didn’t call him the Bus for nothing and while AP may not dish out the same punishment that “The Bus” did, try tackling a 220-lb rock moving at 4.38 speed and see if you don’t peel yourself off the turf wondering where that bus came from.
Truth is, any dedicated NFL follower has the right to say a particular back of his era was the greatest of All-Time. I won’t take away anything from Jim Brown or Walter Payton or Gale Sayers. But I didn’t see them play. I’ve seen highlights but often times highlights don’t capture everything you need to see to make a full determination. I’m not claiming I know everything but one thing I do know is that ever since I started following the NFL in 1995, there hasn’t been a better pure running back than AP.