Fantasy Impact: Adrian Peterson Signs With The Saints
Adrian Peterson is now a New Orleans Saint. That’s weird to say, right? But in the end, we knew Peterson would be playing for a team other than the Vikings this year. While some have said that this is Mark Ingram’s backfield, I’m going to make the case as to why there may be room for both of them to be contributors to your fantasy team this season.
Before talking about the Saints running back situation, I want to make something clear. Nobody knows if Peterson is done. All of the people saying that he is, were probably the same people who said he was done after he re-injured his knee in 2011. Peterson silenced all the doubters in 2012 when he ran for almost 2,100 yards, nearly breaking the all-time record. I’m not saying that I know whether or not he is done, but don’t listen to those who tell you that they know. They don’t.
From a landing spot perspective, Peterson really couldn’t have picked a better team outside of maybe the Raiders. In 2016, the Saints running backs collectively totaled 400.3 fantasy points in standard leagues (second in the NFL) and 527.3 PPR points (most in the NFL). While some will try and tell you that it’s because of their pass catching running backs, the only one on the roster outside of Mark Ingram who caught more than 22 passes was Travaris Cadet. Tim Hightower was never known to be a three-down back, yet he hauled in 22 passes with Drew Brees in 2016.
Their running backs ranked 15th in rushing attempts, seventh in rushing yards, and were tied for seventh in rushing touchdowns. While Ingram is a very good player, it wasn’t enough to keep Hightower from touching the ball 155 times, which ranked the 32nd most among running backs. You also have to keep in mind that Ingram hasn’t been the picture of perfect health throughout his career. In his first five seasons, Ingram missed 18 games due to injury, possibly the reason that the Saints refuse to let him touch the ball 20-plus times per game. The way they used him last year maximized his efficiency and there’s really no reason to change what worked.
I’m not going to say that Peterson will even get 50 percent of the touches, but I will say that it’s hard to find a running back who’s been better on the goal-line than him throughout his career, as he’s scored at least 10 touchdowns in every season he’s played four or more games. Most Ingram owners know that he was pulled on the goal-line in favor of Hightower plenty of times last year, which is why their touchdown numbers were so close (Ingram six, Hightower four), and that’s despite Hightower’s inefficiency. Don’t be shocked to see Peterson score more rushing touchdowns than Ingram, simply because of the way they seem to handle Ingram.
The last full season that Peterson played was in 2015 where he totaled 1,485 rushing yards (would have ranked second in the NFL last year) and 11 rushing touchdowns (would have ranked sixth last year). That’s a far cry from a backup running back, which most seem to be labeling him as. They paid Peterson about three times the amount they were paying Hightower, which should give you a hint as to what they think of him. If you’re judging Peterson off 2016’s small sample size, the Vikings offensive line allowed their running backs just 1.23 yards before contact, while the Saints gave theirs 1.82 yards before contact.
Bottom line is that the Saints scored 29.3 points per game in 2016 (was the second-most), Peterson has been a goal-line monster throughout his career, they don’t want to use Ingram in a workhorse role, and they paid Peterson three times the amount they could’ve had Hightower for. Instead of just assuming Peterson is done, take him when he comes as a value. As for where you should draft him right now – I’d take him in front of guys like Jeremy Hill, Matt Forte, and Paul Perkins, which is a high-end flex type running back. At that price, he should return your cost of investment, with potential for more.