Is Adrian Peterson Still the Best Running Back in the NFL?

By Nick Baker
Adrian Peterson
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

How can I ask such a question just a year after Adrian Peterson rushed for over 2,000 yards? Well, the rest of the league is getting better, and guys like Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy, and Marshawn Lynch all deserve to be included in the conversation for best running back in the NFL.

Peterson is currently second in the league with 997 rushing yards and McCoy is leading the pack with 1,009, but the other two guys listed are in the top five for rushing yards as well. Just a few years ago the trend was seemingly heading towards using a two-back system, but the Minnesota Vikings were rewarded handsomely for possibly overusing Peterson last season by giving him the 346 carries he needed to flirt with the single-season rushing record.

When you have four running backs all competing at a high level and putting up similar stats it means it’s time to look at the film. Last season Peterson had a certain fight that allowed him to run through almost any defender, that is if he decided not to run around them, which is the biggest reason his six yards per carry average led the league. This season you can still see the same fight in Peterson’s game as he’s always running hard and never stops his legs, but the only problem is he isn’t breaking the same tackles he was last season.

Peterson has been dealing with a groin injury for a few weeks and his offensive line hasn’t been as solid this season, but it can’t be ignored that he is possibly past his prime as a 28-year-old and seven-year NFL veteran. The other players on this list, however, appear to be in their prime as McCoy is still the speedster he always was and both Lynch and Charles are running through defenders with ease.

Peterson is possibly the most physically gifted running back in the NFL as he posses the ability to run through or around defenders and has breakaway speed that allows him to blow past cornerbacks and safeties. However, Peterson’s vision has been holding him back once again this season as he routinely misses the open hole and instead tries forcing his way through a crowded pileup at the line of scrimmage. This had led to Peterson having to break more tackles and is also a reason his 4.4 yards per carry average is way below his mark last season.

As disappointing as it may be, Peterson no longer appears to be the easy answer for best running back in the NFL. Of course he still has a chance this season and next to prove how dominant he really is, but with the other running backs in the league performing just as well as the reigning MVP, Peterson may have to begin sharing the spotlight amongst some of his peers.

Nick Baker is a contributing writer for Rant Sports and you can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and add him to your network on Google.

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