Is Adrian Peterson the greatest running back ever?

Adrian Peterson
Less than a year removed from tearing his ACL and MCL, Peterson is back to running through and past defenses. (Photo credit to S*B Nation)

A genetic freak. An unstoppable force. The greatest running back ever? It’s clear that Adrian Peterson is the first two, and now, he is starting to become the third. 

A little less than 12 months ago, Peterson tore both his anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in his left knee on the eve of Christmas is Washington D.C. against the Redskins. As he lay there, with his left leg shivering, literally, most wondered if he would ever be the same player.

Turns out, he might be better.

No one knows how he is dominating the National Football League, without dynamic playmaker Percy Harvin and with second-year quarterback Christian Ponder struggling in recent weeks. But somehow, Peterson has rushed for 1,600 yards (1st in the NFL), averaging six-yards per carry (1st in the NFL), and 10 rushing touchdowns (2nd in the NFL). He has accomplished all of that on 265 carries (2nd in the NFL) through only 13 games. He is on pace for 1,969 rushing yards, which would eclipse his career season high of 1,760 rushing yards he set back in 2008. But if the last few weeks are any indication, he might rush for over 2,000 yards. Since Nov. 4 (five games), Peterson has rushed for 825 yards (165 yards per game).

What he has done is nothing short of a miracle. It proves that he is one of the most-gifted athletes to ever set foot on a football field. He is in contention for NFL Comeback Player of the Year and league MVP. What Peyton Manning has done with the Denver Broncos has amazed, too, but it doesn’t compare to what Peterson has already accomplished. Even though Manning has led the Broncos to an AFC West title, he sat out all of last season while recovering from, what turned out to be, four neck surgeries. Peterson missed the last game of the season and was back in time for opening day against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Anyone who watches football knows that a quarterback has a more profound effect on the outcome of a game and a team’s season than a running back. But this case is different. Peterson has his team in contention despite facing eight and nine-man fronts every Sunday. Peterson doesn’t have three secondary receivers or a tight end to bail him out if his number one option isn’t open. When you’re a running back, there are no “check-downs” and you can’t throw the ball away.

In his 6th season, Peterson has rushed for 8,352 yards, ranking 36th on the all-time rushing list. Emmitt Smith is the NFL’s all-time leading rusher with 18,355 yards. If Peterson finishes the season at his current pace, he will have 8,721 rushing yards going into his 7th season. Smith carried the ball 4,409 times during his career. If Peterson is able to carry the ball at his current yards per-carry average (5), he will have rushed for 22,045 yards. As for touchdowns, Smith also holds that record with 164 rushing touchdowns, averaging one touchdown every 26.88 carries. Peterson has 82 career touchdowns on 1,671 carries, an average of one touchdown every 20.37 carries.

Peterson is a unique blend of power, force, explosiveness, agility, quickness, and strength.

He is in the “prime” of his career, but I feel that his is just getting better.

If the Houston Police Department can’t hold this man down, who can?


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