Why Adrian Peterson should be the No. 1 pick in 2015

Adrian Peterson has proved before that he can post big numbers following an extended absence. Jerry Lai/USA TODAY Sports

One of the most-polarizing first-round fantasy options of 2015, Adrian Peterson's supporters will tell you about his superstar ability, career resume and "fresh" legs after a year off. Doubters will mention his age (he turned 30 in March), apparent uneasiness with the franchise and "rusty" legs after a year off. For a variety of reasons, I fall into the former group.

Here's a look at why Peterson should be the No. 1 overall fantasy pick in 2015:

1. Peterson does, in fact, have superstar ability as shown by one heck of a resume

From 2007 (his rookie season) through 2013, Peterson appeared in at least 12 games each year. He scored 10 or more rushing touchdowns each of those seasons and was never below 1,100 scrimmage yards. In NFL history, only LaDainian Tomlinson (2001-08) has matched that feat to start his career. Since debuting in 2007, Peterson has racked up a league-high 1,548 carries against opposing base defenses. His 5.2 yards-per-carry mark is second best (Jamaal Charles: 5.5) among 60 backs with 350-plus carries in the category. Watch the tape. Check the numbers. Ask your dad. The guy is one of the best ever.

2. He's previously fared well after an extended absence

Peterson tore his ACL during the 2011 season and missed nearly all of the following offseason. He went on to enjoy a career year in 2012, racking up 2,314 yards and 13 touchdowns on 388 touches. Peterson, of course, was in his prime at age 27 that year, but it's hard to ignore such an incredible recovery and subsequent dominance. And this time he's not coming off an injury.

3. Norv Turner's impact can't be overlooked

Peterson's fantasy dominance over the past decade is even more impressive when you consider how little he's done as a receiver. During his first seven seasons in the NFL, he averaged 29.4 receptions per year and scored a grand total of five receiving touchdowns. Meanwhile, over the past eight years, Turner's running back units have averaged 104 receptions per season and totaled 31 receiving touchdowns. In 2014 -- Turner's first year with Minnesota -- Vikings tailbacks combined for 82 receptions. That's well above the 61 per game enjoyed by Minnesota backs during Peterson's first seven seasons. Matt Asiata (44 receptions last year) and Jerick McKinnon (27) were fairly unimpressive in the role, which will help keep Peterson on the field on passing downs. There's a very good chance Peterson eclipses his career high of 43 receptions and 436 yards this season.

4. The Vikings are good at football

The Minnesota offense scored 29 touchdowns last season, which ranked 25th in the NFL. That's not very good, but there is very good reason to believe the Vikings will be much better offensively (and possibly even a playoff contender) in 2015. As thoroughly examined here by yours truly and KC Joyner, Teddy Bridgewater is the real deal. Displaying impressive downfield accuracy (relative to all passers, not just rookies), Bridgewater was Pro Football Focus' top-rated quarterback over the final five weeks last season. History suggests Bridgewater should improve in his second season, which will be helped along by a much-improved supporting cast. As if Peterson's return wasn't enough, Mike Wallace was acquired and Kyle Rudolph is fully back from injury. Minnesota figures to finish no worse than middle of the pack in scoring and will certainly lean on its running game with Peterson in the fold. The Vikings' improved defense will allow additional rushing opportunities in the second half of games.


Of course, as is the case for any player you'll consider on draft day, there are legitimate risks with Peterson. The two primary concerns with Peterson revolve around his age and his time off.

History shows that reaching age 30 isn't necessarily a death sentence for running backs. Over the past 15 years, 13 running backs 30 years old or older have put together a season with 1,000 scrimmage yards and at least 10 touchdowns. That includes 30-year-old Priest Holmes' 2,110-yard, 27-touchdown 2003 campaign. As for Peterson's recovery from the time off, we can only speculate his impact. He could be fresh. He could've lost a step. Maybe the two offset and it's a non-factor. It's something we can't quantify and baseless speculation is never advisable when it comes to the evaluation of a player's ability.

At the end of the day, Peterson is an elite talent and a rare, workhorse back in an offense that will lean on the run and score plenty of points. His track record and ability easily offset any concerns about his age and time off. Peterson is your best bet with the first overall pick.