The top 5 running backs in the NFC North. With a little twist…
1. 100% Adrian Peterson – Vikings
Which Adrian Peterson will we get in 2012? If it’s The Old Adrian, then there’s no question who the top back in the division is. 100% Adrian wins it in a walk, even if he still doesn’t catch the ball consistently or pick up blitzes all the time. 100% Adrian is a nightmare for defenses. He makes defensive backs poop themselves. He makes linebackers cry for their mamas. He makes defensive coordinators look for work in less stressful fields, like air traffic controller.
2. Matt Forte – Bears*
* = If the Bears ever sign him and get him back on the field.
Forte is probably a more complete back than Adrian Peterson, but so what? Is he as feared? Is he as respected? Is he as well-compensated? No, no and no. But he’s still a very good player and the Bears would do well to get him locked up, cause this is a year where they could go on a playoff run and they sort of need him for that. Unless they think running back is a spot where you can just plug any old guy in and he’ll do the job.
3. 90% Adrian Peterson – Vikings
90% Adrian isn’t as good as 100% Adrian. He’s not as dominating. He’s not as ferocious. He doesn’t cause as many would-be tacklers to look like total fools. But he’s still better than any back in the division except Matt Forte. If the Vikings end up with 90% Adrian instead of 100% Adrian…well, they’ll still have a really good player. A player good enough to be a top back in the NFL. He just won’t be, you know, Total Freak Truckin’ Guys All Day Adrian. He’ll need more holes – hello offensive line – and he’ll probably need more snaps off, which will be good news for Toby Gerhart.
4. Jahvid Best – Lions
Health concerns hover over Jahvid Best. The Lions are worried enough about durability that they’re reportedly mulling using Mikel Leshoure as their standard back, moving Best to more of a Reggie Bush role. So they’re not certain Best can be an every-down back. He’s very talented though and in Detroit’s offense should be a dangerous weapon.
5. 80% Adrian Peterson – Vikings
100% Adrian is dominating. 90% Adrian is top drawer. But 80% Adrian? Still a solid player, but the other guys in the division are breathing down his neck. That includes his own teammate Toby Gerhart. 80% Adrian would be a sad thing to behold. A shell of the former Adrian. A guy who no longer strikes fear into the hearts of defenses. A guy you can no longer build your whole offense around. If the Vikings get only 80% Adrian Peterson, Bill Musgrave is going to have to scrap the whole plan and start over. Let’s hope we don’t see 80% Adrian this year. I’d rather see no Adrian than 80% Adrian.
Other Guys to Watch: Toby Gerhart (Vikings); James Starks (Packers); Mikel Leshoure (Lions); Kahlil Bell (Bears); Alex Green (Packers)