It's hard to believe with the numbers Adrian Peterson has already produced that he has played in just 30 NFL games. In those games, he has averaged 20 carries and 100 yards a game – the true benchmark of a franchise running back. During the 2008 season, he started making significant gains on the all-time team rushing list. Considering that the Vikings are just shy of 50 years playing in the National Football League, one would have thought that it would have taken A.D. longer to get himself into the top 10 of the team's career rushing list.
That hasn't been the case. In 2008 alone, Peterson passed the likes of Chester Taylor and Terry Allen to move into the ninth spot on the all-time rushing list. In fact, in his role as a valued change-of-pace back, Taylor will need only 337 yards in 2009 to move into 10th place himself on the all-time list. But Peterson's rise up the charts has been nothing short of meteoric.
Peterson ended his second NFL season as the ninth-ranked rusher in career yards with 3,101 yards. If he has another season like he had in his first two, many other legendary Vikings names will fall by the wayside on the all-time list.
With just 74 yards, he will pass Michael Bennett for eighth place, something he likely will accomplish on opening day. Before September is out, he will almost surely pass Tommy Mason for seventh place – needing just 151 yards to take over that spot. His trip to No. 6 will take more time, but like leap-frogging Bennett and Mason, his continued movement up the all-time rushing leader board will come fast and furious. Entering next season, he will need 1,131 yards to pass Darrin Nelson for sixth place, 1,220 yards to pass Dave Osborn for fifth and 1,446 yards to pass Ted Brown into fourth place on the all-time list – all achievable goals for A.D.
What would make his accomplishments even more impressive is the speed in which he has passed these other Vikings legends. It took Allen and Bennett five seasons to reach the landmarks that Peterson has already blown past or will very early into the 2009 season. Mason took six years to get his total of 3,252 yards. Nelson needed 10 seasons to hit 4,231, Osborn played 11 seasons to get to 4,320 and Brown needed eight seasons to get 4,546 yards. Barring injury, Peterson will have passed all of those players in three seasons or less.
When Peterson fell to the Vikings with the seventh pick of the 2007 draft, many of us believed we were going to see a phenomenal talent the likes of which the Vikings may have never had in franchise history. While many tried to temper their enthusiasm by taking a wait-and-see approach before anointing him as the greatest RB in team history or one of them, after just two years, a case can be made that it might be time to have such a coronation.
If he remains at his current pace, by the end of the 2010 season – which would be Peterson's fourth in the league – he will have moved into second place on the all-time list, passing Bill Brown (5,757 yards in 13 seasons) and Chuck Foreman (5,879 yards in seven seasons). That would leave only Robert Smith (6,818 yards in eight seasons) in front of him and he could realistically catch Smith somewhere during his fifth NFL season.
What Vikings fans have witnessed over the last two seasons can't be overstated. It took Peterson only 21 games to reach 2,000 career rushing yards, behind only Eric Dickerson (18 games) and Earl Campbell (20 games). His 3,101 yards through his first two seasons is fourth on the all-time list behind only Dickerson, Edgerrin James and Campbell – and it should be pointed out that Dickerson had 168 more rushes, James had 155 more and Campbell had 69 more attempts.
The best part of it for Vikings fans? Peterson can get better. He is still learning the NFL game and, once he starts reading defenses at the snap a little better, his numbers could grow even higher.
Much like Viking Update encouraged fans to revel in being able to watch Randy Moss a decade ago when he revolutionized the wide receiver position and became the prototype athlete for future WRs entering the league, you get much the same feeling watching Peterson. He is something special and, for the foreseeable future, fans will be able to watch him do his magic as a Viking – moving his way up the all-time NFL rushing list and leaving legends from other teams in his wake.
Peterson leaving the legends in his wake
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