Adrian Peterson’s jump on all-time rushing list getting more impressive

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has never been short of confidence or making outrageous yardage predictions. But, coming off a season in which he shot up the all-time rushing list, he has more in store for 2016 and the list is much more impressive in its scope.

Last year at this time, fans of the Minnesota Vikings were looking forward to the return of Adrian Peterson – which would happen at the end of this week in 2015. When Peterson did make his triumphant appearance at OTA, the line of questioning surrounded the phenomenal shape he was in.

But the questions quickly turned to how much he felt he may have lost by missing nearly an entire season to the suspension that derailed his career. Having turned 30 in March of 2015, the age when most running backs that are still in the league have hit the proverbial wall that has consistently served as the downhill portion of an NFL career, Peterson continued the bravado that has made him such a quotable sensation when asked about personal records.

In the past, he has claimed he can play until he is 40 and isn’t looking to rush for 2,000 yards again. He wants 2,500.

But one goal that seemed as elusive as either of his other two was that he is chasing Emmitt Smith as the all-time rushing leader. After all, Peterson was 8,165 yards behind Smith and the odds looked steep at best.

To be honest, it still looks unlikely, but, considering what Peterson accomplished last year when he led the NFL in rushing he can’t be completely written off. Smith was sitting atop the heap, but there were a lot of players that needed to become casualties in Peterson’s run to the top of the charts.

In 2015, he knocked a lot of very good players out of the way. This year, he’s going to start taking down legends.

As the 2015 season began, Peterson had 10,190 career rushing yards in 29th place on the all-time list. By the time he finished the year, he was 17th and the list of players he surpassed was impressive.

In Week 2, he moved past Ottis Anderson. In Week 3, he passed Eddie George and Tiki Barber. In Week 6, he left Thomas Jones and Jamal Lewis in the rear-view mirror. In Week 7 Ricky Watters was left behind.  The second half of the season saw more legends fall at the feet of A.P. In Week 10, Warrick Dunn got passed. In Week 12 at Atlanta, Peterson carried 29 times for 158 yards and two touchdowns. In that game alone, he passed O.J. Simpson, Corey Dillon and John Riggins to move from 22nd place to 18th place on the all-time list. In Week 14, he passed Steven Jackson into his current spot at No. 17 on the all-time list.

As impressive as Peterson’s run was in 2015, if he’s the A.P. everyone has come to know over the better part of the last decade, he could make a similar jump with a typical Peterson season.

By season’s end, he will be in the top 10 and could be as high as No. 7 on the all-time list if he avoids serious injury.

The only fly in the ointment to his climb is Colts running back Frank Gore. He is ahead of Peterson at No. 15 on the all-time list with 12,040 yards – 365 more than Peterson. Assuming Peterson can gain 366 more yards than Gore, he not only keeps passing players, he starts passing true legends of the game. The guys he passed in 2015 were elite running backs that had long and productive careers. The players he will be passing from here on through are legends.

With just 21 yards, he surpasses Fred Taylor for 16th place. This is where it gets harder to project because Gore needs fewer yards (not many) to stay ahead of Peterson. That being said, it is Hall of Famers ahead.

With 400 yards, Peterson passes Thurman Thomas into 14th place (Gore exception made). With 446, he passes Franco Harris and his Italian Army. With 569 yards, he moves past Marcus Allen. Just 3 yards more and he passes Edgerrin James. With 605 yards, he will surpass Marshall Faulk and knock Faulk out of the top 10.  The one that will likely get the most attention – as it should – is when Peterson moves into the ninth spot. With 638 yards Peterson will pass Jim Brown, who accomplished what he did in nine years in which his first four years the NFL played just 12-game seasons and his last five years were 14-game seasons. In current terms, he accomplished what he did in 7½ seasons, which make his marks even more impressive.

With 1,065 yards, Peterson will move past the current No. 8 all-timer Tony Dorsett. After that, it gets a little dicey.

In just about every Peterson milestone ever – the quickest to a yardage milestone, 100-yard rushing games, etc. – the name consistently at the top of the list is Eric Dickerson. Peterson gave the best run anyone ever has to topple his single-season rushing record, but his career mark will be difficult to catch in 2016.

To pass Dickerson, Peterson is going to need 1,560 yards, which may be a tall task to ask for in 2016. But, with a typical Peterson season, suddenly the guys in front of him won’t seem so far away.

He still has a long way to go to catch Smith. He remains 6,680 yards behind Smith and those yards will get harder to gain with each passing year. But, a year ago at this time, there were 27 other guys standing in the way of Peterson.

With a typical year, only six of those will remain – Dickerson, Jerome Bettis, LaDainian Tomlinson, Curtis Martin, Barry Sanders and Walter Payton. With 1,560 yards in 2016, that list will be reduced to five. Even if he doesn’t catch Dickerson in 2016, even with a dip in his numbers but excluding injury, by the end of 2017 all that will stand between him and the top spot will be Payton and Smith.

Enjoy Peterson while you still have time, Vikings fans. The organization may be around for another 100 years and never have a running back as prolific as Peterson. He’s already in the land of the giants and, by the time all is said and done, he’s going to be on the medal stand – even if he doesn’t win the gold or silver.


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