With Tennessee's Chris Johnson coming off a 2009 season in which he joined the elite 2,000-yard rushing club, the current debate as to who is the game's top running back has come down to Peterson and Johnson.
In an evaluation done for The Sporting News by an unnamed NFL team director of player personnel, the top NFL running backs were ranked – based on size, power, speed, durability and versatility. According to the study, A.D. is still the man.
Peterson was ranked No. 1 with the analysis stating he has the edge on Johnson because of his physical power style combined with the ability to take runs the distance with his speed. The only downside was that he needs to do much more to cure his fumbling problems.
While Johnson finished second in the personnel director's ranking, it wasn't due to any downside on his part. In fact, the only downside that was noted with Johnson was that he is a little lighter and shorter than the prototype NFL running back, which is something beyond Johnson's control. It sure didn't seem to have any ill-effects on his ability to knock out 11 straight 100-yard games last year.
For the record, the remaining runners ranked in the top 10 were Steven Jackson, Ronnie Brown, Michael Turner, DeAngelo Williams, Frank Gore, Maurice Jones-Drew, Brandon Jacobs and Felix Jones. That is a diverse group that includes players that have consistently had injury issues (Brown and Jacobs) and one player (Jones) who has never had the opportunity to be a full-time back.
While such lists are always the subject of debate – given what he did last year, how did Ray Rice not finish in the top 10? (he was 16th) and do the Cowboys actually have two of the top 12 running backs in the league? (Jones was an unproven 10th and Marion Barber was ranked 12th). Because of that curiously high ranking, it could lend some to believe that the front-office man who did the analysis did so with a considerable knowledge of both Jones and Barber – and has a high opinion of them.
While the individual rankings will likely be debated for many different reasons – versatility, the potential to be a three-down back, ability as a runner and receiver, etc. – it's clear that when other teams look at the Vikings, they worry at least as much about the impact Peterson can make as they do Brett Favre. Favre is a unanimous first-ballot Hall of Fame choice when he eventually retires and becomes eligible. But, when Peterson lines up behind him, it would seem defenses will be more concerned about what No. 28 can do to them than No. 4 – a pretty good dilemma to have.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.