Dec 29, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (28) acknowledges the fans during the closing ceremony following the game against the Detroit Lions at Mall of America Field at H.H.H. Metrodome. The Vikings defeated the Lions 14-13. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Will Adrian Peterson be the best NFL RB ever?

Adrian Peterson may be one of, if not the, best running back in the NFL right now. Will he go down as the greatest of all time?

While LeSean McCoy might argue with the statement that Peterson is the best in the league at this moment, it’s pretty clear that Peterson has been the man for the past few years in the league and has shown the best chances to put his name in with the likes of Jim Brown and Emmitt Smith.

Two seasons ago Peterson came within eight little yards of Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record and he’s one of only three active NFL players on the top 30 all-time rushing yards list. Though it’s tough to see Peterson or anyone else coming close to Emmitt Smith’s all-time rushing yards now or anytime soon. Peterson would have to rush for another 8,000+ yards at the age of 29 and keep up his production and health at a time when most running backs will see their numbers decline.

Just to talk about Peterson’s health, however, puts him on another level all together. The rate to which he recovered from an ACL injury makes him nothing less than a freak of nature and an impressive athlete. Peterson suffered the ACL injury in 2011 and then only came back in 2012 to come within eight yards of breaking the single-season rushing record, that’s all.

If he can stay healthy going forward, he puts himself in excellent position to move further up the rushing total list. He was the third fastest in NFL history to get to 10,000 yards, getting there in 101 games played. Even NFL rushing legend and Hall of Famer Jim Brown thinks that Peterson has what it takes to take the rushing title for himself. He told the Pioneer Press back in April that he thinks Peterson has the possibility to break the mark set by Emmitt Smith in 2002.

“If he wants that and he dedicates himself and he has good fortune, that’s a great possibility. I think if he sets his goals and he understands his circumstances and he knows what it takes, that he can be successful. I’m not saying that he will break the record, I’m just saying it’s a possibility.” – Jim Brown

The fact that new offensive coordinator Norv Turner plans to use the Vikings running back in the short-yardage passing game this season could save Peterson from the wear and tear that could hinder his production once he reaches the dreaded age of 30. Peterson has been healthy for the majority of the Vikings offseason workout programs and Minnesota drafted Jerick McKinnon in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft for depth in the running back group.

Take a look at Peterson’s career stats:

Rushing Receiving
Year Age Tm G Att Yds TD Y/A Y/G Rec Yds TD YScm RRTD
2007* 22 MIN 14 238 1341 12 5.6 95.8 19 268 1 1609 13
2008*+ 23 MIN 16 363 1760 10 4.8 110.0 21 125 0 1885 10
2009*+ 24 MIN 16 314 1383 18 4.4 86.4 43 436 0 1819 18
2010* 25 MIN 15 283 1298 12 4.6 86.5 36 341 1 1639 13
2011 26 MIN 12 208 970 12 4.7 80.8 18 139 1 1109 13
2012*+ 27 MIN 16 348 2097 12 6.0 131.1 40 217 1 2314 13
2013* 28 MIN 14 279 1266 10 4.5 90.4 29 171 1 1437 11
Career 103 2033 10115 86 5.0 98.2 206 1697 5 11812 91
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 7/21/2014.

What could possibly hold Peterson back at this point from furthering his legacy as one of the great ones? Is he the greatest back of all time right now? Probably not. Is he the greatest running back in the NFL right now? Yes. LeSean McCoy would like to debate that topic a bit further but he needs a whole lot more yards to put his name in the ring at this point. NFL fans, however, will be the beneficiaries of watching McCoy and Peterson compete to be the top rusher in the league.

I’d say that it’s hard to argue with Jim Brown on this. If everything goes right for Peterson in the next few years and he stays healthy, the sky is the limit for him.

Tags: Adrian Peterson Emmitt Smith Jim Brown LeSean McCoy Minnesota Vikings NFL

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