On the surface, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson’s 2013 season (1,266 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns, 4.5 yards per carry; 29 catches for 171 yards) looks bad compared to his nearly record-setting 2012 (2,097 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns, 6.0 yards per carry; 40 receptions for 217 yards). It’s unrealistic to expect back-back seasons at the level Peterson set in 2012, despite his lofty goals heading into this past season, but he was also less than 100 percent for much of 2013 and wound up missing two games.
Peterson will reportedly undergo surgery on the groin that gave him trouble throughout the season, but his status for the start of next season is not in doubt. But with a third straight offseason surgery on the slate, is Peterson still the No. 1 fantasy running back for 2014?
There are plenty of factors working against Peterson, including age (29 in March) and workload (2,033 career carries), but he still led all running backs with at least 200 carries in yards after contact this past season despite playing at less than full strength for a large chunk of the season. Add in a shaky quarterback situation, and shutting Peterson down will again be the focus for opposing defenses next season.
The Vikings have made an upgrade at offensive coordinator, with Norv Turner being hired to replace Bill Musgrave under new head coach Mike Zimmer. Turner’s history with running backs is noteworthy (Emmitt Smith, LaDainian Tomlinson, Stephen Davis), but Peterson is also at a later stage of his career than Smith and Tomlinson were when they crossed paths with Turner.
There will surely be a wide array of opinions on Peterson’s fantasy football outlook as next season approaches, much as there was two years ago when he was working his way back from a devastating knee injury. I don’t think he’ll fall completely off next season, but Peterson no longer stands out as the clear-cut top-ranked fantasy running back and I’ll consider having more than one back (Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy) ahead of him in my preseason rankings.
Brad Berreman is a Senior Writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.