Adrian Peterson’s deal with the Saints all seems anticlimactic, but the awkward feelings were the same when Joe Montana signed with the Chiefs and Jerry Rice inked a deal with the Raiders. Now Peterson needs to prove to the critics that the tank isn’t on empty.
AP has bucked the perceived norm in the past when he rehabbed and returned from a torn ACL in nine months and proceeded to rush for 2,097 yards in 2012. However, Peterson was 27 years old then and turned 31 last month. Between a suspension and other injuries, including a torn meniscus last year, he has missed 30 games over the past four seasons. To his credit, between all that missed time, he led the NFL in rushing in 2015 (1,485 yards).
Regardless, with so many miles on those legs and scars on those knees, it’ll be an uphill climb for Peterson to find fantasy football relevance in the downhill Saints offense.
Saints pass-happy offense
We know the Saints like to pass first and run second, but here is a visual aid to drive the point home. This is a three-year pass percentage breakdown of all plays:
2016 – 63% of all offensive plays were pass 2015 – 63% 2014 – 62%
Here is the three-year rush percentage breakdown of all Vikings plays during Peterson’s last three “full” seasons with Minnesota:
2015 – 51% of all offensive plays were rush 2013 – 44% 2012 – 50%
Peterson goes from RB-1 touching the ball every other play, to RB-2 where tailbacks carry the ball one out of every three plays.
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Mark Ingram remains RB-1
In his first full 16-game season since 2012, Ingram rushed 205 times for 1,043 yards. The 5.1 yards per rush ranked fifth in the NFL ahead of Ezekiel Elliott. His PPR-friendly 46 receptions ranked top 13 in the league among running backs. Ingram averaged 15.1 fantasy points per game in PPR leagues – 10th among running backs and 42nd overall.
He produced at these levels in what was, at times, a contentious timeshare with Tim Hightower. But ...
Getty ImagesJamie Sabau
Tim Hightower is now with the 49ers
Now part of San Francisco’s backfield quagmire, Hightower finished the 2016 season with 12 red zone rushes inside the opponent’s 5-yard line compared to Ingram’s nine. Owners saw it happen more than once where Ingram would help carry the team down near the end zone and Hightower would pop in for a play and finish things off (camera cut to Ingram blowing a gasket).
Hightower finished with 133 carries (155 touches) last season. One would have to believe Peterson will touch the ball more often, but that depends on the passing game out of the backfield. Speaking of which ...
Cadet can catch out of the backfield
It would be an insult to Darren Sproles to suggest Travaris Cadet embraced a similar role in the Saints offense last season, but he did his best impression. After fighting his way back onto the field, Cadet hauled in a career-high 40 passes for 281 yards with four touchdowns.
Peterson isn’t known for his pass-catching ability. He hasn’t caught more than 30 balls in a season since 2012. So, he won’t help his fantasy stock with Cadet poised to assume his niche role once again in 2017.
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What happens to John Kuhn?
John Kuhn touched the ball 34 times last season. He scored five touchdowns. Granted, three came in one game against the Chargers, but he's still a bulldozer. With Peterson in a prime position to vulture red zone work, it'll be interesting to see what Kuhn's future holds after inking a one-year deal back in February.
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At the end of the fantasy draft day ...
It's not ideal for fantasy football owners. Most leagues have embraced point-per-reception scoring where volume and pass-catching running backs (see: Mark Ingram) are highly coveted. That's not AP's game anymore. Unless Ingram goes down with an injury, AP is the RB-2 and even if Peterson earns an in-season promotion, Drew Brees will continue to pass and Travaris Cadet lingers as a target out of the backfield. Peterson's fantasy value and potential do not leap off the page as it once did. I wouldn't draft him before the 10th round if at all.
Peterson might find interest in touchdown-heavy fantasy football leagues where touches and yardage are trumped by trips to the end zone. As I mentioned before, Peterson could touch the ball eight times in a game, but because those eight touches came near the end zone, he could post 12+ fantasy points.
You know, like that legendary fantasy football vulture Matt Asiata. Who does he play for again?