The Fantasy Might Be Believing Adrian Peterson Is Still a No. 1 Pick

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Will the time off be a negative or a positive for Adrian Peterson?

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Andrew Weber/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

The pro football season starts Thursday, which means fantasy football starts Thursday as well. For some fans, that is the more exciting news.

Most players have their team set by now, and there is preseason confidence in the air. But those owners lucky enough to have nabbed Vikings running back Adrian Peterson may have the most confidence of all.

Peterson is the consensus No. 1 fantasy choice this year, according to a Fantasy Pros survey of 49 experts.

The Sablich brothers of The New York Times rate Peterson as the top running back, and in most fantasy games the No. 1 running back is the No. 1 overall pick too.

But how safe a bet is Peterson, really?

His career numbers have been outstanding. He made the Pro Bowl in six of his seven full seasons, and in 2012 he put up an incredible 2,097 yards rushing, the second highest total ever. Crucial for fantasy players, he is also a touchdown machine, scoring at least 10 in every full season.

But in 2013 his yardage slipped to 1,266, though he missed only two games. For the season he ranked only eighth among running backs in standard fantasy scoring, according to Football-Reference.

Last year he played only one game before missing the rest of the year after being indicted and suspended over child abuse charges. He pleaded no contest and got no jail time. After a court appeal, he is fully eligible for 2015.

Many fantasy experts see Peterson’s time off as a positive. It is common to read that he has “something to prove” or is “on a mission” this season. On the other hand, the year off and his legal travails may have made him rusty or taken the edge off his game.

Those who tout Peterson also like that he will be a part of what is expected to be a high-powered offense under the offensive coordinator Norv Turner in Minnesota. But last year, Turner’s first with the team, it ranked 20th in points and 27th in total yards and finished 7-9. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was toward the back of the pack in passer efficiency as well.

Peterson’s remarkable 2012 season came on a 10-6 playoff team. The Vikings are far from certain to achieve that again.

Most concerning is that Peterson is 30 years old. Last year’s top 30-or-older back, Frank Gore of the 49ers, ranked 16th in fantasy points at his position.

While a few early-30-something running backs have put up big numbers — Priest Holmes was incredible in 2003, for example — many others have begun their decline by that age.

Peterson is not a unanimous No. 1 fantasy pick. Some experts have opted for Le’Veon Bell of the Steelers, despite his two-game suspension under the league’s substance abuse policy. Eddie Lacy of the Packers and Jamaal Charles of the Chiefs are also popular picks. Based on the initial matchups, The Times even ranks Lacy ahead of Peterson in Week 1.

So if you were lucky enough to get the top choice in your league, and snap-picked Adrian Peterson, it may be a little early to stock up on Champagne.

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