Is it too early to consider Adrian Peterson as a Hall of Fame candidate? Typically, one of the primary criteria for a player to get inducted into the Hall of Fame is that he was viewed as one of the dominant players in the NFL at his position for an extended period of time. Perhaps the reason Cris Carter has had to wait so long for the call to the Hall is that for half of his career with the Vikings he wasn’t viewed as the dominant receiver on his own – early on with Anthony Carter and late with Randy Moss.
However, in less than six years in the league, a case can be made that Peterson has been one of the most dominant backs in the history of game, especially considering that he plays an era dominated by passing yards, not rushing yards.
Since Peterson joined the league in 2007, no team has more rushing yards than the Vikings’ 12,076 – 381 more than the Carolina Panthers. They are tied with Carolina for best average gain per rush (4.7 yards) in the span and the Vikings (largely Peterson) lead the Panthers by 13 carries of 10 yards or more – 354 for the Vikings , 341 for Carolina.
A total of 81 games into his career, he has already shattered the half-century of Vikings’ individual records. In Week 1, he passed Robert Smith for the all-time rushing lead and already has him more than 700 yards into the rearview mirror. Last week, he set the record for career 100-yard rushing games with 30, breaking Smith’s old record of 29. He owns four of the top five career rushing seasons and is currently on pace for 1,550 yards, which would be the second-highest single season in franchise history. He has four of the top five franchise single-game rushing records, including the NFL record of 296 yards vs. San Diego in 2007. Seven times the Vikings have had a player rush for 12 or more touchdowns in a season and Peterson accounts for four of them (Chuck Foreman has two and Terry Allen has the other). With 94 combined yards Sunday, he will pass Randy Moss for third place on the all-time franchise list (Moss has 9,496 combined yards) and is just 962 yards short of Darrin Nelson (9,496) and just 3,007 yards of Cris Carter’s once-thought-to-be-untouchable franchise record of 12,410 yards.
While Peterson has monopolized the Vikings franchise rushing records, in terms of dominance in his era, there is no questioning that Peterson is the pre-eminent running back of his time. Since joining the NFL in 2007, not only does he lead the league in rushing yards (7,527), nobody else is within 1,200 yards of him – second is injured Maurice Jones-Drew with 6,327. His 68 rushing touchdowns is 14 more than second-place Michael Turner. His 71 total touchdowns are 11 more than Jones-Drew, who remains second. His average of 93 yards a game is more five yards a game better than second-place Chris Johnson. There are different players in many of the rushing categories, but only one guy in first place in all them – Peterson.
He may already be a Hall of Famer based on the dominance over the peers of his own era, but, when used in a comparative basis against the all-time leading rushers, Peterson is moving his way up those lists as well. When the 2012 season began, Peterson was already in 62nd place on the all-time rushing list. In the first eight games of the season, he has worked his way up to 49th on the all-time list. If he replicates his numbers from the first half of the season, he will end 2012 in 36th place on the all-time list, passing players like Priest Holmes, Larry Csonka, Roger Craig and Herschel Walker.
But perhaps the best measuring stick is comparing Peterson across the lines with the most prolific running backs of all time. With 7,527 rushing yards, Peterson currently ranks 14th all-time in that category, but legends are going to be falling on almost a weekly basis that will likely have Peterson in seventh place on the all-time list for this stage of his career. He needs just 105 yards to pass Thurman Thomas, 189 to pass Clinton Portis, 194 to pass Edgerrin James, 228 to catch overtake Curtis Martin, 287 to pass Eddie George and 291 to pass Shaun Alexander. If he does that, he would clearly cement himself in pretty elite company.
Of the top six players on this list, five of them are already in the Hall of Fame and the other will be inducted on the first ballot he becomes eligible – Eric Dickerson (9,915), LaDainian Tomlinson (9,176), Emmitt Smith (8,956), Barry Sanders (8,672), Walter Payton (8,386) and Earl Campbell (8,296).
If there is a downside to Peterson’s quest for Canton it is that, of the legends on that list, only two of them (Smith and Payton) played in a Super Bowl and Payton didn’t do until the tail end of his career. Super Bowls enhance a player’s chance of making the Hall of Fame, which explains why a player like Lynn Swann, who never had a 1,000-yard receiving season in his career, is in the Hall of Fame.
Swann may be the poster boy example of how team success enhances Hall of Fame credentials. Swann is 198th on the all-time receiving yardage list with 5,462 yards and will almost surely be passed by Vincent Jackson (5,380) and Brandon Lloyd (5,219) by season’s end – dropping him to 200th – and likely would have been passed by Nate Burleson (5,169). In time, Swann’s ranking will be dwarfed, but already trails players with no chance of getting into the Hall of Fame unless they buy a ticket to get in. Swann trails such trivia answers as Chris Burford, Vance Johnson, Dan Abramowicz, Jessie Hester, Louis Lipps, Sean Dawkins, Carlos Carson, Quinn Early, Marty Booker, Darnay Scott, Brian Blades, Haven Moses, Curtis Conway, Carroll Dale, Laveranues Coles, Eddie Kennison and Ricky Proehl, former Vikings Anthony Carter, John Gilliam, Jake Reed, Derrick Alexander, Sammy White, Steve Jordan and Ahmad Rashad and running backs Marshall Faulk, Larry Centers, Ronnie Harmon, Keith Byars and Eric Metcalf. Clearly team success and big postseason games got Swann into the Hall and overshadowed his pedestrian overall production.
Peterson still has a ways to go in order to kick in the door at Canton, but, given his dominance and production, it could be argued that if A.P. decided to “pull a Jim Brown” and walk away from the game tomorrow, he has put up enough numbers to be a Hall of Famer. It would seem it’s only going to be a matter of time before Peterson has piled enough yardage to cement his induction, but Vikings fans should enjoy what they have now, because they’re able to witness it while it still going on at a high level. Some feared A.P. wouldn’t be the same following his horrific knee injury last year, but his renaissance season and miraculous comeback start making you think that there is a lot gas left in the tank and, by the time all is said and done, his Hall of Fame induction will be a mere formality.
VIKINGS-SEAHAWKS BY THE NUMBERS
The Vikings have the 22nd-ranked offense (7th rushing, 27th passing) and the 11th-ranked defense (16th rushing, 12th passing).
Seattle has the 30th-ranked offense (8th rushing, 31st passing) and the 5th-ranked defense (5th rushing, 13th passing).
The Vikings are averaging 340 yards a game (207 passing, 133 rushing). Defensively, the Vikings are allowing 332 yards a game (224 passing, 108 rushing).
The Seahawks are averaging 303 yards a game (171 passing, 132 rushing). Seattle is allowing 312 yards a game (227 passing, 85 rushing).
Seattle is tied for 18th in giveaway/takeaway ratio at minus-2 (11 takeaways, 13 giveaways). The Vikings are tied for 24th a minus-4 (10 takeaways, 14 giveaways).
The Vikings are tied for 14th in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on 53.8 percent of their offensive drives (14 touchdowns in 26 drives). Seattle is 30th in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on eight of 21 drives (38.1 percent).
Only Oakland (34.8 percent) and Kansas City (27.8 percent) have a worst touchdown percentage in the red zone than the Seahawks.
Seattle is sixth in red zone defense, allowing touchdowns on just nine of 23 red zone opportunities for their opponents (39.1 percent). The Vikings are 16th at 52 percent (13 touchdowns on 25 red zone possessions).
Both the Vikings and Seahawks have been among the league’s worst teams on third down. Offensively, the Vikings are 23rd in third-down efficiency at 35.3 percent. Seattle is 29th at 32.7 percent. The league average of converting third downs is at 38.7 percent.
Defensively the Vikings are 29th in third-down defense, allowing conversions on 44.2 percent of opponent chances. Seattle isn’t much better at 43.9 percent, which ranks them 27th.
The Vikings are second in the league in average starting position after kickoffs at the 25.3-yard line (more than three yards better than the league of the 22.1 yard line). Seattle is eighth with an average start at the 23.6-yard line.
Defensively, no team is as stingy on kick coverage as Seattle, allowing an average starting position of the 19.4-yard line to its opponents. The Vikings are 19th, allowing an averaging starting position of the 22.1-yard line.
Neither quarterback is lighting up the league. Despite playing in all eight games while most teams have already had their bye week, both rank pretty low on the QB rankings scale. Christian Ponder is 14th in attempts (262), 10th in completions (171), ninth in completion percentage (65.3), 19th in yards (1,743), tied for 12th in touchdowns (10) and 15th in passer rating (85.8). Russell Wilson is 26th in attempts (210), 24th in completions (129), 17th in completion percentage (61.4), 27th in yards (1,466), tied for 12th in touchdowns (10) and 20th in passer rating (82.4).
Ponder in ninth in the league in fourth-quarter passer rating at 94.5. Wilson is 14th with a passer rating of 88.2 in the fourth quarter.
Wilson is 21st in third-down passer rating at 76.2. Ponder is 28th with a rating of 66.4.
Sunday’s game will feature the league’s two top rushers. Adrian Peterson leads the NFL with 775 rushing yards. Marshawn Lynch is second with 757 yards.
If the Seahawks run in a third-and-short situation, don’t expect Lynch to get the ball. Fullback Michael Robinson has converted all four of his third-and-1 runs, while Lynch has converted just two of four. Peterson has converted four of six third-and-1 runs.
Harvin is tied for the league lead in receptions with Wes Welker of the Patriots with 60. Former Viking Sidney Rice leads the Seahawks with 28 receptions, which ties him for 53rd in the league.
Harvin is fifth in the league in receiving yards with 667. Rice has just 367 to lead the Seahawks, which ties him for 55th in the league.
Harvin is seventh in the league in third-down receptions with 15.
Kyle Rudolph is tied for ninth in scoring among non-kickers with 32 points (five touchdowns and a two-point conversion). Harvin is tied for 12th with 30 points (five TDs) and Peterson is tied for 28th with 24 points (four TDs). Nobody on Seattle has more than three touchdowns.
Kicker Blair Walsh is fourth in the league in scoring with 68 points. Steve Hauschka of the Seahawks is 14th with 56 points.
Walsh has 31 touchbacks, which ties for first in the league. Hauschka is tied for 12th with 18 touchbacks.
Peterson leads the NFL in total yards from scrimmage with 914 (775 rushing, 139 receiving). Lynch is second with 841 yards (757 rushing, 84 receiving). Harvin is ninth with 739 yards (667 receiving, 72 rushing).
Harvin in fourth in the league in first downs with 41 (36 receiving, five rushing). Peterson is tied for fifth with 39 (35 rushing, four receiving). Lynch is tied for 11th with 36 (31 rushing, five receiving).
Seattle punter Jon Ryan is third in the league in punting average at 50.2 yards and seventh in net punting average of 41.9. Chris Kluwe is 24th in punting average at 43.8 yards and 16th in net punting average at 39.9.
Harvin is second in the league in kick return average at 35.7 yards. He trails only Jacoby Jones of Baltimore, who is averaging 39.4 yards on just nine returns.
Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman is tied for fifth in the league with three interceptions. Antoine Winfield leads the Vikings with two.
With a sack in each of the last six games, Jared Allen continues to climb up the sack list. His seven sacks tie him for seventh place in the league, along with Seattle DE Chris Clemons. Seattle rookie DE Bruce Irvin is tied for 24th with 4.5 sacks. Brian Robison is tied for 30th with four sacks.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.