Welcome to the next installment of our Vikings Free Agency Primer series: the running backs. Check out our other primers on tight ends, defensive ends, cornerbacks, safeties, quarterbacks, wideouts, and defensive tackles.
Ah yes, here we are. The inevitable departure of Adrian Peterson has happened, and we can take a clear look at the Vikings running back situation and what to do about it.
It wasn’t good. The Vikings were dead last in the league in rushing last year, and while much of that can (and should) be attributed to the floundering offensive line play, none of the backs did much to inspire hope, either.
Peterson only played in three games due to injury, rushing 37 times for 72 yards—a putrid 1.9-yard average. While we’ll fondly remember the AP glory days—he is, without a doubt, one of the greatest players in franchise history—his legendary burst has mellowed, his injuries have begun to pile up, and his cost is most likely too high for a return. The fanbase is ready to move on, and you get the feeling Adrian is, too. It would be surprising if the Vikings re-signed him.
The absence of Peterson thrust Jerick McKinnon into the lead role in 2016, finally giving us the long look at the shifty back many fans had anxiously awaited. It went…fine. McKinnon carried the ball 159 times for 539 yards (3.4 YPC) and two touchdowns, and also had 43 catches for 255 yards and another two TDs. Again, it’s difficult for any runner to perform well without holes to run through—the YPC average was by far the lowest of his career—but McKinnon never really displayed the electrifying ability we hoped he possessed. It may still be in there, but calls for McKinnon to receive more touches have temporarily been silenced.