The top two running backs in the NFL this coming season are arguably going to be Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster in some order. Lets break down the pros and cons of both backs.
Adrian Peterson: Consistency and Contract Status
This will be Peterson’s fifth year in the league, and he has consistently been one of the top backs in the National Football League since being drafted seventh overall in the 2007 draft. Even his rookie year, when AP only started nine games and appeared in 14, he had 238 carries for 1,341 yards and 12 TDs.
His best year came in 2008, when he had 1,760 yards and 10 TDs. His 2009 campaign saw him rush for 18 TDs as well. He has never scored less than 10 TDs or rushed for less than 1,298 yards.
In addition, AP is in the final year of his contract, and is expected to have a monster year rushing the ball in order to secure a massive deal after the season.
He has also improved many knocks on his game, such as his fumbling problem. In ’09 he fumbled seven times, but in 2010 he lost the ball just once. He should prove to the Minnesota Vikings this year that he deserves to be the highest-paid rusher in the league.
Arian Foster: Fresh Legs and Catching
Foster has started just 14 games in his two years in the league. He was not the feature back until last season, when he broke out and led the league with 1,616 yards on 327 carries while scoring 16 TDs. He is 24 years old, and has the potential to be a key cog in the Houston Texans' offense for many more years to come.
Peterson still has trouble catching the ball, while Foster is an important piece of the Texans’ passing game. He had 66 receptions for 604 yards last season, and should only improve on these numbers this coming season.
Adrian Peterson: Wear and Tear and a New Offensive System
Peterson has carried the ball 1,198 times in his career for 5,782 yards. He has not sustained a significant injury in the NFL yet, but he broke his collarbone in college and missed a serious amount of time.
Peterson has proved so far he can handle the rigors of an NFL season, but injuries are something a back with as much experience as Peterson will eventually have to deal with.
Bill Musgrave took over as offensive coordinator for the Vikings this season, and the team has new QB Donovan McNabb under center. This will change how the Vikings offense is run, and it remains to be seen if Peterson will put up the same numbers as in years prior.
Arian Foster: Inexperience and Precedent
Foster has had one good year in the NFL. He is expected to be pushed by second-year pro Ben Tate, who spent last season on the IR. If Foster is not able to garner as many carries, or falters a bit now that defenses know what to expect from him, he could slip. Foster also has yet to prove he can handle the rigors of an NFL season for more than one year.
After Chris Johnson had a monster year in the league, putting up 2,006 yards, he dropped down to 1,364 yards last year. It is very difficult to sustain a high level of production from the RB position in the league, especially when opposing defenses make it their priority to stop you every week.
Foster could still have a monster year, but it would not be surprising if his numbers are not as good as they were last year.
With that said, both of these running backs should have monster years. I would take Peterson over Foster if I had to choose, though. His level of production over the past four years is unparalleled, and he has proven he is a competitor year in and year out.