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All-Day For the Win: Why Adrian Peterson Matters Again


I don't think anyone could ever be happy at any sports player getting injured. It just makes no sense, so please leave the hatred out now and forever when it comes to that. That being said, though, we're talking about just a branch of sports here with fantasy football, and we all know what is important in fantasy football: Opportunity.

Injuries bring opportunities to others, and in Week 14 Derrius Guice (sadly) went down injured again and will miss the remainder of the 2019 season as Washington has placed him on injured reserve (again).

After having missed his rookie season and eight games in his second campaign, Guice is done for good. That means that Adrian Peterson, yes, that 34-year-old Adrian Peterson, is now back at the leading back role in Washington. It's time to take a look at his numbers and see if we can consider him a potential league-winner for the last two weeks of the playoffs.

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Back to Where It All Started

It was September and I couldn't be more excited about Washington's backfield. For one, Derrius Guice looked fit and poised to show the world his talent. And as if that wasn't enough, Adrian Peterson would be there in the backfield to back him up. Everybody loves AP, so the situation was great. Only that Peterson was left out of the Week 1 game against Philadelphia...and Guice was injured in the season opener.

From Week 2 to Week 10 (Washington's bye), it was all about Peterson in the backfield, coaching staff be damned. Obviously, even as a Peterson fan, I had to temper my expectations. Peterson had a 1,042-yard season back in 2018 and that was more than enough reason to be excited about a repeat, but at 34 years of age, it wasn't going to be easy.

Here is how Adrian Peterson's 2018 and 2019 seasons compare to date:

Focusing on the performances of the first half of the season in 2018 (Weeks 1 to 8) and the first half (Weeks 2 to 9) of 2019, the outcome was clearly much better in the former than the latter year. Was 2019 going to be the season Peterson finally failed his fantasy owners and never recovered from an inevitable regression due to age? Not so much.

Sure, the first eight games of 2018 yielded an average of 16.1 PPR points for Peterson, and the first eight of 2019 only averaged 8.8 PPR, virtually half the value. Peterson even had three RB1 performances in that span in 2018 to just one in 2019, although he kept up his boom (RB1) or bust (RB3 or lower) tendencies.

 

Post-bye Resurgence and a Larger Role

What happened from Week 9 on in 2018 is very similar to what has happened from Week 10 on in 2019 and the outcomes have been much more similar lately. From Week 9 to Week 16 in 2018, Peterson averaged 10 PPR points per game and although he didn't reach RB1 levels he still had three RB2 finishes. This year, since getting back from the bye and competing with a returning Derrius Guice for opportunities he has already two RB2 performances of 15.9 and 13.6 fantasy points. Had he kept this pace up while sharing the backfield Peterson would have been expected to have at least another RB2 finish this year.

That would be nice, but the expectations are now even rosier as Guice will be out for the rest of the year, leaving Peterson a massive workload all to himself during the last couple of the fantasy playoffs weeks. When he shared the backfield full-time with Guice in weeks 11, 12, and 13 Peterson was limited to just nine, 10, and 13 rushing attempts. In the games Guice hasn't been on the field (including Week 14, as he only played nine snaps), Peterson has logged 14-plus attempts five times, including a season second-highest mark of 20 this past weekend against Green Bay.

This is how Peterson has performed this season when running 14-plus times, compared to games in which he had fewer than 14 attempts:

The difference is staggering. Peterson is averaging double the fantasy points and more than double the yards on the ground. He's also scored two touchdowns in his last two games in which he rushed 13 and 20 times. Washington's situation at quarterback isn't very good with rookie Dwayne Haskins starting and showing no real talent so far. That is to say, Washington's best chances of winning or at least trying to do it during the rest of the season go through the ground and Adrian Peterson.

As far as the opposition he'll face, Peterson and Washington will have the eighth-best schedule in Weeks 15 and 16 for running backs:

Even more encouraging is the fact that Peterson was already able to produce good points in the toughest part of his season during Weeks 2 through 7, in which he had three outings of 11, 8, and 16 fantasy points good for at least an RB2 and flex player in any league.

 

Fantasy Verdict

Not a lot of rushers other than the locks and mega-star, sure-fire starters, will find themselves in Adrian Peterson's position to finish the season. He will be the de facto No. 1 option in Washington's backfield and it would not be crazy to see he could also turn into the best offensive weapon of the whole attack.

Peterson is owned in only 40% of Yahoo! leagues as of this writing on Tuesday morning after Week 14, so you have more than a coin's flip chance of finding him on waivers and picking him up for your fantasy team. If that is the case, and as I already said in the last section, you should add him in a hurry and make him your RB2/Flex play during the remainder of the season if you don't have better options around.

You might think Peterson is a desperate play, but far from it. Peterson's 43 rushing attempts since Week 12 rank 17th in the NFL and his 202 yards in that span are 13th in the league. Peterson is averaging 4.7 yards per carry in his last three, and he's been able to score a couple of touchdowns. Only Raheem Mostert and Derrick Henry have more scores in the last three games.

If that isn't enough to convince you, think again about Peterson being Washington's lone rusher going forward. His opportunities and touches will go up and he will carry (no pun intended) all of the load he can handle ROS.

If you have Peterson in your roster, play him without hesitation. If you can get him through waivers, don't give it a second thought. And if you're the poor fantasy owner facing a team that has him in their roster, well, hope your rival doesn't start him.

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