In this four-part series leading up to training camp, I’ll be profiling the Vikings you should target in your fantasy football leagues this year. Look for new additions every Thursday and Friday the next few weeks and stay tuned for a bonus selection at the end!
Adrian Peterson, RB — Minnesota Vikings
Adrian Peterson hasn’t had the best luck with quarterbacks. Since being selected 7th-overall in the 2007 NFL Draft, Peterson’s starting quarterbacks include (in chronological order): Tarvaris Jackson, Gus Frerotte, Brett Favre, Christian Ponder, and Matt Cassel. Save Favre’s magical 2009 season, Peterson has succeeded in the face of terrible quarterback play, rushing for 10,190 yards and 86 touchdowns in his eight-year career.
With such a lack of talent at the position, it’s no surprise that defenses stacked the box with eight, and even nine defenders at times. According to Pro Football Focus, Peterson faced an eight man box on 34.48% of his attempts in 2013, his most recent 16-game season. Despite the odds, Peterson finished the year with 1,266 yards on the ground while averaging 4.6 yards per carry (slightly lower than his 5.0 career average).
What’s missing in this discussion is the quarterback situation TODAY. Peterson hasn’t taken a regular season snap with Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota’s prodigal son and quarterback savior. After the first game of the 2014 season, Peterson was suspended and missed an opportunity to line up behind Bridgewater, who went on to cement himself as the team’s starting quarterback. The rookie finished the year with 14 touchdowns, a 64.4 percent completion percentage, and an above-average quarterback rating of 85.2.
The newfound success at the position opens up opportunities in the running game, as outlined by NFL.com’s Alex Gelhar in an article published following Norv Turner’s hiring:
“Turner runs a version of the Air Coryell offense, which tries to force the defense to defend the entire field through a combination of mid- to deep-range passing routes and a power running game. The offense sends players in motion to create space and allow them to avoid being jammed at the line of scrimmage so their deeper routes have time to develop. Ideal personnel include a fast receiver able to win deep jump balls, a pass-catching tight end capable of stretching the middle of the field, and a power back able to grind out yards between the tackles and catch the ball in space.”
Peterson fits the bill of a “power back able to grind out yards between the tackles”, but he’s never been known as a pass-catcher. In his eight seasons, Peterson’s career-highs receiving the ball are 43 catches (2009), 436 yards (2009), and 1 touchdown (multiple years). When Turner was hired to be the Vikings’ offensive coordinator, he made it clear he wanted to get Peterson involved in the passing game. “I would expect Adrian Peterson to catch 50/60 balls next year,” he told KFAN. Although the plan didn’t come to fruition, it should be a goal in place for a coach whose running back units have averaged 104 receptions per season and totaled 31 receiving touchdowns.