Recent History Supports Rookie RB Success

Adrian Peterson

How good will Adrian Peterson be in his first year in the NFL? We won't know until we see exactly how he will be used once the regular season is underway, but many rookie running backs have found success in the last five years. We look at the numbers.

There was plenty of celebrating among Vikings fans when the team took Adrian Peterson with the seventh pick in the 2007 draft. But there has never been a lead-pipe consensus on how rookie running backs will fare.

Last year, there were plenty of question marks surrounding the first-round rookies. All were going to teams that already had a running back cemented in place, but each of them made a major contribution when used. Reggie Bush was electric. Laurence Maroney made Corey Dillon expendable and Joseph Addai did the same to Dominic Rhodes in Indianapolis.

Recent rookies have done the same. Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams have been starters since Day One, Cedric Benson ran Thomas Jones out of Chicago, Steven Jackson forced Marshall Faulk to the bench and Larry Johnson made it easy to let Priest Holmes walk away.

All had big expectations as first rounders and most have produced. But how much can be expected of a rookie making the jump to the pros? Quite a bit, actually. While Peterson's situation will be as individual as any of the others, here are the first-year numbers for running backs drafted over the last five seasons and what sort of impact they made with their team in regards to rushes, yards rushing and rushing touchdowns.

2006
Reggie Bush, New Orleans – 155-565-6; 88-742-2
Laurence Maroney, New England – 175-745-6; 22-194-1
DeAngelo Williams, Carolina – 121-501-1; 33-313-3
Joseph Addai, Indianapolis – 226-1,081-7; 40-325-1

2005
Ronnie Brown, Miami – 207-907-4; 32-232-1
Cedric Benson, Chicago – 67-272-0; 1-3-0
Cadillac Williams, Tampa Bay – 290-1,178-6; 20-81-0

2004
Steven Jackson, St. Louis – 134-673-4; 19-189-0
Kevin Jones, Detroit – 241-1,133-5; 28-180-1

2003
Larry Johnson, Kansas City – 20-85-1; 1-2-0
Willis McGahee, Buffalo – Did not play

2002
William Green, Cleveland – 243-887-6; 16-113-0

Looking back five years and beyond, the pickings seemed pretty slim, but in recent years, the numbers for rookies put in the right spot has trended upward sharply – even for rookies that came in with veterans already in place. While we won't get a true measure on Peterson until we find out how Brad Childress is going to use him, if he can keep pace with the rookies of the past two or three seasons, the Vikings will have nothing to complain about.

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