Adrian Peterson has certainly been doubted before and generally managed to exceed expectations in what will be a Hall of Fame career, and it’s only natural that fantasy managers — and Arizona Cardinals fans, perhaps — will get overly excited about Tuesday’s trade that landed the running back for a conditional draft pick. The problem is, Peterson, now 32 years of age and looking every bit like it on his 29 touches for the New Orleans Saints this season, isn’t exactly moving to such a great situation for statistical prowess.
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The Cardinals have had major troubles running the football since the David Johnson wrist injury in Week 1, and that’s partly because the replacements weren’t, well, David Johnson, but also the offensive line isn’t performing well. Chris Johnson, who had some bountiful moments in his fine career and played competently as recently as 2015, which is also the last time Peterson did, was cut Tuesday to make room. Chris Johnson was averaging 2.5 yards per carry this season. Will Peterson really be much of an upgrade?
Well, as one might expect, it’s tough to be optimistic about this trade altering the fantasy landscape. Peterson is healthy and remains in fine shape, but the Cardinals are last in the NFL in rushing yards for a reason, and it probably wasn’t solely about personnel. In theory, Peterson will see considerably more volume than he got with the Saints, so the trade should elevate expectations to a degree. Peterson was never a great fit with New Orleans, not when Mark Ingram is still competent and rookie Alvin Kamara is teasing star potential. Peterson turned his 29 touches into 85 yards. If the Cardinals simply let him run, then there is surely flex potential here.
Just don’t be so sure the Cardinals do that. Sure, they’d obviously prefer if ancient Carson Palmer wouldn’t continue to lead the league in passing attempts and flirt with the all-time record, but the Cardinals aren’t the only NFL team having trouble running the ball, either. Peterson seems like an upgrade over Chris Johnson, but not enough to excite anyone, because he’s similarly got a lot of mileage on those proverbial tires and the Cardinals have a guy to catch passes out of the backfield in rejuvenated Andre Ellington. This situation could be like the Cleveland Browns, where the pass-catching, third-down runner, in their case Duke Johnson Jr., is more valuable for fantasy than the guy getting the early-down carries, Isaiah Crowell.
waiver wire column still seem like better pickups. This doesn’t disregard the possibility of relevance, but realism matters. If it’s Peterson versus his former Minnesota Vikings colleague Jerick McKinnon, who catches passes and looked electric Monday night, take the younger fellow.
The New York Jets are likely going with rookie Elijah McGuire, and again, take the kid. Wendell Smallwood in Philadelphia? Yep! In fact, I’d go with Ellington over Peterson as well, but it is possible, depending on matchups, that each will be recommended as a reasonable flex choice in any given week. Remember, many leagues are PPR and Peterson doesn’t catch many passes.
As for those opportunistic Saints, who unloaded the modest Peterson contract and an outwardly unhappy player they were barely using anyway, some will profess greater love for both Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, and I see that. Then again, I was already viewing them as the lone Saints running backs who mattered in fantasy. Neither made my top 20 at the position in Tuesday’s end-of-season rankings, but they were flex options. Not much has changed in that respect. The Saints now lack a third running back, but they’ll surely find some Tim Hightower- or Stevan Ridley-type begging for work, and it likely won’t matter. Ingram and Kamara were buy-low options before Tuesday’s news, and that remains so.