NFL.com columnist Adam Schein created his list of the most indispensable players in the NFL. It is a list broken into two parts - offense and defense - and Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has topped the list for offensive players the past four seasons.
When describing what it means to determine an indispensable player, Schein says it’s a player that is “absolutely necessary.” In other words, an indispensable players is someone that needs to be on the field in order for the team to succeed and, as Schein states, that is exactly what Peterson has been for the Vikings.
“In his nine-year career, Peterson has logged 16 games in four separate seasons, all of which ended with the Vikings in the playoffs,” he explained. “In the five other campaigns? Zero playoff appearances for Minnesota. That, my friends, is indispensable. When Adrian Peterson plays a full season, the Vikings make the playoffs -- plain and simple.”
It would be difficult to find any player that has meant as much to an offense as Peterson has to the Vikings’ throughout his career - the next player on the list is New England tight end Rob Gronkowski. Peterson has been the focal point of the Vikings offense for almost his entire career, and even when he had Brett Favre leading the offense in 2009 he still recorded 1,383 yards and 18 touchdowns.
After missing all but one game in the 2014 season, Peterson returned in 2015 and recorded 1,485 yards - the third-most in his career - and 11 touchdowns. That is a feat not too many players are able to accomplish at the age of 30, but Peterson has proved, time and time again, that he is just a different breed.
The most amazing part of it, though, is that Peterson has been putting his team on his back throughout his career, all while the opposing defense is playing to stop him. He is consistently facing eight- or nine-man boxes, but he is still able to be one of the best running backs in the NFL. And the Vikings are going to need him to continue to do that, especially while their young quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, continues to develop.
“With Teddy Bridgewater still growing, Peterson is Minnesota's offense,” Schein said. “And he racks up these numbers with the opposition designing the entire game plan around stopping him.”
But as Peterson continues to get older, his role on the team has continued to change. He is still expected to be the focal point of the offense and be one of the best running backs in the NFL, but he is also expected to be a leader now and a mentor for some of the younger players on the team.
Peterson is entering into his 10th season in the NFL, which means a lot of his current teammates grew up watching him - German receiver Moritz Böhringer even took up football because he saw highlights of Peterson running the ball. Young players look up to Peterson and idolize him, so it is important for Peterson to help them out from time to time.
“I feel like it’s my job to embrace them and encourage (the young guys),” Peterson said at the start of organized team activities. “Our vets would pull a couple of the young guys to the side and briefly talk to them and let them know that I’ve been watching and I’m liking what I’m seeing. Just make sure you make the best of your opportunity and bring your best foot forward to make every day count. A couple things like that I know that motivates those guys and keeps those guys hungry. I always end it with, ‘We’re trying to win a championship, so we want you to help us be a part of that.’”
It is hard to say how many more years Peterson will be able to play in the NFL, especially at the level he has been playing at his entire career. He turned 31 in March and he will eventually start to wear down. Father Time always gets the best of professional athletes at one point or another, but Peterson has definitely lasted longer than many.
He is a different level of athlete and that is why he is so indispensable for the Vikings and what they hope to accomplish.