Adrian Peterson, RB, Oklahoma Sooners

by Cameron Graszl on January 29, 2007 @ 16:00:00 PDT

 


Adrian Peterson, the star running back from the University of Oklahoma, has declared for the 2007 National Football League Draft. This news likely brought smiles to the faces of fantasy owners everywhere, as Peterson is the best pure runner to come from the college ranks in some time.

BACKGROUND

Peterson exploded on the scene as a freshman in 2004, carrying the ball 339 times for 1,925 yards, a total that broke both the Oklahoma single-season rushing record and the NCAA freshman rushing record. Peterson also scored 15 touchdowns. This fantastic campaign propelled him to a consensus All-American selection and a second-place finish in the Heisman Memorial Award Trophy voting, best ever for a freshman.

Peterson's sophomore season was marred by a high ankle sprain, which caused him to miss close to four games. He still surpassed the 100-yard mark in five of the seven games in which he was fully healthy, including impressive performances with over 200 rushing yards against Oklahoma State and Tulsa. He finished the season with 1,108 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns, a consensus selection to the All-Big 12 Conference Team.

Peterson entered the 2006 season as one of the early favorites for the Heisman Trophy. He started out on a scintillating pace, rushing for over 100 yards in each of his first six games - including a 211-yard effort against Oregon - and averaging a career-best 156 yards per game. Unfortunately, he broke his collar bone in the midst of a spectacular game against Iowa State and missed the next seven games.

Peterson still managed to finish the season with 935 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. In addition, he posted his best year catching the ball with eight receptions for 127 yards and one touchdown. He was again a First-Team, All-Big 12 selection and was able to return to the field for the Fiesta Bowl against Boise State.

POSITIVES

Peterson is a prototypical NFL running back with the perfect combination of size (6-foot-2, 220 pounds), speed and acceleration. He has the vision to find holes, and he hits them with authority. He also has an array of moves and explosive lateral quickness, as well as a second gear to outrun defenders in the open field.

Peterson runs with good power while having the strength and balance to break tackles. He drives his legs on contact and has shown a nose for the goal line. Not only is Peterson the type of big, workhorse running back who will wear down defenses, but he has the straight-line speed to take it to the house whenever he gets in the open.

The team that drafts Peterson will most likely be taking him to be their primary ball carrier; he's simply too talented to be subjugated to the dreaded running back-by-committee approach. This guy is the total package when it comes to running the football - a big play waiting to happen - and he should be the kind of player who can carry an offense.

NEGATIVES

Obviously, the primary concern here is the history of injuries. Peterson's freshman year was the only season that Peterson didn't miss any games due to injury and even then he needed offseason shoulder surgery. After missing close to four games with the high ankle sprain in 2005 and missing seven games with the broken collar bone in 2006, durability is clearly a concern.

Peterson has to prove that he can handle an NFL workload without getting hurt on a regular basis if he is to reach his full potential. Never one to shy away from contact, Peterson is a tall back whose upright running style causes him to take a lot of body shots; he needs to learn to keep his pad level lower and avoid some of the big hits. The one positive of the situation is that none of his injuries appear to be the lingering kind, and he has not had any of the major knee injuries that can come back to haunt running backs later in their careers.

Peterson accumulated very little work catching the ball out of the backfield in Norman, Okla., and he lacks polish as well as experience as a receiver. He also needs work on his blitz pickup technique, but he does have the size and strength to improve in this area. At times, defenders made Peterson look foolish as he attempted to divert the oncoming rush. He will have to make strides in these aspects of his game to become an every-down back, but that is true of many runners coming out of college, and is more than offset by his dazzling natural ability.

DRAFT PLACEMENT

Peterson is a true blue chip prospect at the running back position and would probably be a guaranteed top-5 pick if not for questions about his durability. He could still go anywhere in the top 10 and most likely won't slide out of the top half of the first round.

The Cleveland Browns, who will have either the third or fourth pick in the draft (subject to coin flip), are the first team that's likely to have a strong interest in Peterson. However, the Browns have many needs and may elect to pass on Peterson for a quarterback or a lineman. If they do, the Houston Texans, who have the eighth pick, are a very probable destination for Peterson, and fantasy owners are drooling at the thought of his ability combined with head coach Gary Kubiak's running scheme.

The Green Bay Packers have the 16th pick, and this is the very last spot that Peterson could come off the board, but it's very unlikely that a player with his sensational skills lasts that long. Don't be shocked to see a team trade up slightly to draft him, and Green Bay becomes a team to keep an eye on with running back Ahman Green set to become an unrestricted free agent this spring.

Peterson should be taken in the top 10 and has an array of attributes make some team extremely happy if he can stay healthy.

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About Cameron Graszl

Cameron has been with KFFL since 2006.

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