We are almost a month into NFL Free Agency and Adrian Peterson is still team-less. This isn’t exactly groundbreaking as Peterson is 32-years-old, recovering from a torn meniscus in his knee, and playing a position that has become drastically undervalued in the NFL. I am a little surprised at the radio silence Peterson has received from teams. There hasn’t been a whisper of a team that’s willing to give Peterson the time of day.
Obviously AP is no longer the running back that terrorized defenses and the NFL alike for the past decade. His 2016 season was painful to watch and was mercifully put down early, thanks to the aforementioned torn meniscus. Through three games, Peterson finished with 37 carries for 72 yards, which calculates out to a dismal 1.9 yards per carry.
Clearly Peterson’s value, both in the NFL and fantasy football, is no longer tied up in his game breaking ability. To me, his best chance at making a roster—and being at least a mildly viable fantasy player—is as a red zone back. While he may have lost a step, he still possesses the “Adrian Peterson Never Go Down” power which is a nice commodity to have when making your way into the end zone.
With all this in mind, here are four teams that like to run in the red zone and have an opening which Peterson could take over and command.
New England Patriots
But Pete, didn’t you say not to trust the Patriots’ backfield?
Yes I did, and thank you for reading! While I am not hot on the Patriots backfield as far as fantasy options, this is based upon the fact that all three backs currently on their roster—Dion Lewis, James White and newly signed Rex Burkhead—are all the same kind of running back: Small, shifty pass catchers. The Patriots do not have a big power back as they have not re-signed LeGarrette Blount.
If Peterson is going to make his living as a red zone back, there is no better team than New England for him to land. Blount led the NFL in red zone carries last year with 68 and 69.4% of the Patriots carries inside the 20-yard line. That is a huge number of touches that are currently up for grabs. Peterson could plug right in and pick up where Blount left off. Let’s not forget in this exact role, Blount finished 7th in total scoring among running backs with 225.9 points.
Green Bay Packers
Green Bay, unlike New England, did not run the ball well in the red zone last year. The Packers tied for 4th worst in the NFL in rushes inside the 20-yard line that resulted in touchdowns (9). They struggled all season to find a reliable running back once they got close to the end zone with no individual back receiving over 12 carries from inside the 20. But the Packers still want to run the ball, particularly inside the 10-yard line with 40% of their plays being runs.
All this to say that the Packers need red zone help when it comes to running the football. Peterson would provide that power needed to fight through the line in close yardage. Plus you can’t help think the Packers would love to pull a Brett Favre back on the Vikings.
I know the Raiders have expressed no interest in Peterson, so much so that they’re trying to coax Marshawn Lynch out of retirement. But this isn’t a list of most likely destinations for Peterson. These are destinations which would make Peterson the best fantasy back he could be. And that Oakland can do.
With Latavius Murray signing with the Vikings, the Raiders are currently out their best red zone back. Last year, Murray accounted for 66.7% of the Raiders’ carries inside the 20, and whopping 78.1% inside the 10-yard-line (4th best in the NFL). Much like in New England, the Raiders don’t have a natural heir apparent on their roster. Behind one of the best offensive lines in football, you could milk one final season of fantasy relevance out of Peterson in Oakland.
New Orleans Saints
The allure of New Orleans stems from them living in the red zone. No team ran more plays in the red zone last year than the Saints (199, the next best was Atlanta with 184). This of course creates plenty of rushing opportunities which the Saints distributed between Mark Ingram (36 carries inside the 20) and Tim Hightower (26). However, Hightower is now a free agent and remains unsigned.
Could the Saints bring in Peterson to replace Hightower? In real life, probably/100% not. But for fantasy purposes, the pairing makes a bit of sense. Hightower, even in his limited role, finished top 35 in total points scored among running backs last year with 104.8 points. That’s better than James White, Derrick Henry and T.J. Yeldon. It would be safe to assume that if the Saints brought in Peterson, his role would increase simply because he’s Adrian Peterson, and that might involve taking red zone shares from Ingram.
Bonus: Not the Dallas Cowboys
I mean, duh. This pairing won’t happen in real football and it would be a nightmare in fantasy. Suddenly Jason Garrett feels like Peterson needs touches which kills Ezekiel Elliott’s stock and the ground opens up and Jerry World falls into the pits of fiery fantasy Hell.
Please no AP in Dallas.