The Minnesota Vikings premier back since 2007 has been Adrian Peterson, but he likely won’t be with the team for 2017. Who could Vikings draft to replace him?
The Current Situation
The Vikings currently have Adrian Peterson, Jerick McKinnon, Matt Asiata and CJ Ham on the roster. The Vikings will look to restructure Peterson who is due to make $18 million this year, but the Vikings could also simply cut him and use that money in free agency. McKinnon is going into his third year with the team and will likely take a predominant role in the rushing attack. Asiata will be a free agent and the team can look to replace him with a younger back. This will leave the Vikings with two running back positions to fill, and this draft class is saturated with talent.
How to Replace Peterson
Peterson will likely not return, it’s prudent to analyze what he did well and what he did not do well for the Vikings to hypothesize who the Vikings should target in the draft.
Peterson put together an excellent pre-draft Combine performance, as demonstrated in the chart below (According to MockDraftable.com):
In his NFL career, Peterson has averaged 4.9 yards per attempt with 97 touchdowns, 39 fumbles and 104 runs over 20 yards. These stats don’t tell the entire story; the league, however, has changed in favor more shotgun runs than under-center runs.
- Peterson career YPC on shotgun runs = 3.73
- Peterson career YPC under center = 4.92
- 2016 League Avg. YPC in shotgun- 4.95
Peterson favors and succeeds well from the under center but compared to McKinnon and the rest of the league, he does poorly in shotgun sets. It is important to note that shotgun runs come in different types of running situations such as goal line, spread runs and misdirection plays.
According to Pro Football Focus, Peterson has gained 7,339 of his of his 11,747 career yards after contact in his career. The Vikings’ next running back will need to display the ability to create the majority of his yards after he is hit.
During his final year in college, Peterson was responsible for 5.1 percent of Oklahoma’s receiving yards and over his tenure with the Vikings only created 6.1 percent of his team’s receiving yards. Market Share of Receiving yards is important because it accounts for the running backs role in the passing game while not penalizing him for playing in a poor passing offense. It’s sensible to investigate how much some of this top backs are contributing during their college tenure.
2017 Draft Class
Barring something unforeseen, the Vikings won’t pick until 46th overall (Round 2). They could very well select a running back. If we compare some the top backs, we can better pinpoint who the Vikings could select if they want an upgrade from Peterson. These backs are not consensus, but are a compilation of multiple scouts’ choice for top running backs.
- Dalvin Cook, Florida State
- Leonard Fournette, LSU
- Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
- Alvin Kamara, Tennessee
- Joe Mixon, Oklahoma
- D’Onta Foreman, Texas
- Wayne Gallman, Clemson
- Brian Hill, Wyoming
- Jamaal Williams, BYU
- Kareem Hunt, Toledo
Here is a compilation of stats and measurables of the above-mentioned players and how they performed in college. Based on size, weight, production, plus the areas Peterson does not perform well, the back that would be the best upgrade would be Joe Mixon of Oklahoma or Kareem Hunt from Toledo. It would be poetic for Vikings to draft another back from Oklahoma but with Mixon’s off the field issues he likely won’t be a target. Strictly examining on-the-field production he is a Peterson upgrade.