Why Joseph Addai, not Adrian Peterson, should be #2 on your cheat sheet

“He has the vision of a Marshall Faulk, the power of an Earl Campbell, and the speed of an Eric Dickerson. Let’s pray he has the endurance of an Emmitt Smith.” – Deion Sanders on Adrian Peterson, 10/14/2007, less than a month before Peterson tore his right LCL in a game against Green Bay.

Adrian Peterson is an exciting fantasy player by any measure. Besting the NFL single-game rushing record in his rookie season was a feat for the ages. Many a fantasy football trophy was won last year thanks to his statistical brilliance. I certainly wouldn’t be incredibly surprised if he has an even better season in 2008. Even though I think he has a higher ceiling than any running back in the league, if I were drafting with the #2 pick tonight, I’d be taking Joseph Addai over Peterson (assuming, as I think we can, that LT goes #1 almost universally). Here’s why:

  1. The obvious issue – injury history. His brief career has included the following injuries (including college and the pros): High ankle sprain in ’05 – missed four games. Broken collar bone in ’06 – missed rest of season after October 14. Torn LCL in ’07 – out for one month. Three straight years with a significant injury – that’s a #2 pick? If he stays healthy, he’s obviously going to be one of the top fantasy running backs in the game, but if I’m lucky enough to get a high pick, I like to use it on someone with potential and durability. Addai dealt with some nagging minor injury issues last season, but none were serious enough to force him to miss time aside from one game (week 5). His performance lagged in the second half due to a series of injuries to tackles Tony Ugoh, Ryan Diem, and Daniel Federkeil, as well as receivers Harrison and Gonzalez. It’s pretty clear that it was the team’s health issues, not his own, that limited Addai in the second half. Whether or not Peterson is injured this season, don’t expect him to get as many carries as he did last year, not after the heart attacks suffered by every member of the Vikings organization when he went down. Chester Taylor could start on many teams and the Vikings would be crazy not to use him to spell Peterson as much as possible. I don’t expect a 50-50 split, but 70-30 doesn’t seem farfetched.
  2. Tony Richardson, the fullback who cleared holes for Peterson last season, is now a Jet. They replaced him with the more-than-adequate Thomas Tapeh (formerly of the Eagles), but Richardson was a major piece of the puzzle in Minnesota and it isn’t yet clear what effect his departure will have. The Vikes’ starting left tackle, Bryant McKinnie, may also miss some time due to off-the-field issues.
  3. Compare the teams. I’d rather take a major piece of a perennial contender than the star of a team with an unproven (to put it lightly) QB and an unbalanced defense (great vs. the run, horrible vs. the pass) which will likely be frequently playing from behind. Addai owners will have plenty of opportunities to watch him gobble up those cherished garbage-time yards.
  4. Pass-catching. In a PPR league? In that case, Addai (41 catches for 364 yards in ’07) is unquestionably a better pick than Peterson (19 for 268).

Clearly, the only major concern here is Peterson’s injury history. With his explosive talent, he’s the kind of player that gamblers love – high risk, huge potential reward. I think Addai has a very high ceiling, with much lower risk than Peterson.

Are there any other players who deserve to be in this discussion? There are a couple you might look at depending on your league’s rules (cough Steven Jackson cough cough Brian Westbrook cough), but that’s a topic for another post… or the comments, if you’re so inclined.