Tracking Adrian Peterson...How Far Can He Go?

Michael TreeceCorrespondent IJanuary 21, 2009

It was less than two years ago when one NFL franchise hit the jackpot yet again. Leading up to the 2007 NFL Draft, many people were debating who the Oakland Raiders should take with the No. 1 pick.

JaMarcus Russell was a strong candidate, as was Brady Quinn. While the 2007 Draft was a big day for a few teams, one of those teams was not the Oakland Raiders for now.

As names began to fall off the board rather slowly, teams continued to pass on a great prospect from a big time school. Injury issues had plagued the star ever since he fell short of the Heisman Trophy his Freshman year. He was injured in both of the next two seasons, and obviously that meant a big risk for whatever team should draft him.

The first six teams had made their selections, most were still pretty good picks, but no one still wanted the Junior running back from Oklahoma. Then it came, "with the seventh pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, the Minnesota Vikings select, Adrian Peterson, running back, Oklahoma."

Vikings fans everywhere went nuts; how could a guy who nearly became the first ever Freshman to win the Heisman Trophy fall to them at No. 7?

That was the start of what figured to be a pretty good career for the young man, but not many people could have guessed how good, it would actually be.

Peterson joined a Vikings team that seemed to be headed on a one-way path to the bottom of the league. The Vikings had just finished up a 6-10 season, and they had just handed the offense to a very raw quarterback in Tarvaris Jackson.

The team's best offensive weapon happened to be the guy Peterson was replacing, and their leading receiver was Travis Taylor. To make matters worse, team leading and now backup quarterback Brad Johnson would not be returning to the Vikings next season either.

Peterson was ready for the task though. His first NFL carry came with 4:32 left in the first quarter, and he ran for 13 yards. The team knew they had something special right from the beginning. Peterson finished up his first career drive with 31 yard on only five carries.

With teammate Chester Taylor getting injured early in the game, Peterson was counted on even more. Peterson continued to pound away, and at halftime he had totaled 42 yards, but that was no where near enough for him.

In the fourth-quarter with the Falcons on a slight comeback, Peterson was relied on in the passing game. Jackson looked out to the right, and hit Peterson on a short screen pass, that looked like a short gain, when Peterson kicked it into gear, got a nice block from rookie teammate Sidney Rice, and took it 60 yards for his first ever NFL touchdown.

Peterson ended the game with 103 rushing yards, and 60 yards receiving.

After Peterson's first NFL game, he continued to show his dominance in the next few weeks, reeling off 280 rushing yards in his next three games, but in Week Five, Peterson made his first impression on most of the nation.

In a game in the Windy City, Peterson came ready to prove himself, sure he was averaging nearly 100 yards a game, but he wanted more. It was supposed to be a less productive day for Peterson as Vikings head coach Brad Childress had just inserted Chester Taylor back into the lineup as the Vikings starting running back, but that would not sit well with Peterson.

On his second carry of the game he hit a hole and took off for 27 yards.

A few drives later he gashed the Bears for another big gain reeling off 22 yards, but "All Day" was far from finished. Although Childress sat Peterson for two straight drives, he came back in with 2:33 left in the second quarter and took off.

On his first carry in three drives, Peterson ran for 67 yards against a talented Chicago Bears defense. Then almost exactly one quarter later, he did it again, tearing up the Bears for another 73 yard touchdown, but he still was not done, on another drive in the fourth quarter he smashed the Bears with a 35 yard touchdown run.

Still, with all the Peterson help, the Bears found a way to tie the game with 1:53 left on the clock. Childress decided to change things up, and sent AD into the game to return the kickoff. What a great idea, Peterson took off getting a 53-yard return and setting up a game-winning field goal.

Peterson wen out two weeks later and had another monster game, racking up 296 rushing yards on a very good San Diego Chargers defense. As just a rookie, Peterson had the best single game performance by a running back in NFL history.

Unfortunately a week later AD was injured in a loss to Green Bay, but at the end of the year, he came back, and finished his rookie campaign with 1,341 yards, 12 touchdowns, and a whopping 5.6 yards per carry.

He finished second only to LaDainian Tomlinson, in just his rookie season. Peterson then went on to the Pro Bowl, and became the first rookie to win the Pro Bowl MVP award since Marshall Faulk did it in 1995.

In year two, it was much of the same for the young man, starting the season off with 263 yards in his first two games. Peterson's biggest game came against the rival Green Bay Packers, as he virtually took his team, on his back, to victory by leading a come from behind fourth quarter drive, getting 64 of the teams 69 yards, and ultimately scoring the winning touchdown.

Peterson finished off the day with 192 rushing yards, and 33 more through the air.

As the season went on, Peterson continued to dominate, racking up a league-leading 1,760 yards, a league leading 10 100-yard rushing games and 10 touchdowns. Peterson finished the season leading the Vikings to their first playoff appearance in four years, and getting the Vikings their first ever NFC North title.

Peterson received three votes for NFL MVP, and many experts wondered how he finished tied for fourth, when he had such a great year. Peterson is currently headed to his second straight Pro Bowl.

Peterson eclipsed the 3,000-yard mark this season, making him one of only five guys to get that mark during their second NFL season. He joins a pair of Hall of Famers, and current running backs Clinton Portis and Edgerrin James, with that honor. Peterson also accomplished the feat while missing two games his rookie season.

Many teams believed Peterson would be injury prone, but he has done nothing, but prove them wrong. He has only missed two games due to injury in his two seasons of work, while guys such as Joseph Addai, Clinton Portis, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Brian Westbrook, who were not considered injury prone, have missed just as many, or more games since then.

Peterson has led the NFL in rushing since he entered the league, out gaining his closest competitor, Clinton Portis, by a whopping 352 yards. Portis is the only back, within 500 yards of Peterson since he entered the league.

How far can Peterson go?

Peterson said his goal for the 2008 season was 2000 yards; he fell a little short of that, but he is certainly within reach. Only five NFL running backs have ever gotten a 2000-yard season, but Peterson seems determined to make it six. No running back has ever reached the milestone twice.

If Peterson could make it there, he would join the likes of some of the greatest running backs ever: O.J Simpson, Erick Dickerson, Barry Sanders, Terrell Davis, and Jamal Lewis.

If the Vikings could find a pretty good quarterback to take away the eight and nine man defensive fronts Peterson sees, it is scary to think how good this young man could be, at age 23, he has already proved himself as one of, if not the best running back in the NFL.

Peterson is averaging 1,550.5 yards a season, 11 touchdowns, and a whopping 5.2 yards per carry. If Peterson continues at the pace he is currently going, he will reach the vaunted 12,000 career rushing yards by only his eighth NFL season.

All running backs who have reached that milestone, are either not yet eligible, or they currently have a bust in Canton.

How far can he go? Can he run his way to more NFL records, can he be the first to get 2000 yards in multiple seasons, will he run his team to a Super Bowl? Who knows, but there is certainly a reason Adrian Peterson is referred to as, "All Day."


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