When you look at the most efficient ways to build NFL rosters in our current day and age there are a few philosophies that are generally frowned upon. One of these is, of course, devoting serious capital or financial commitment to the running back position. The Dallas Cowboys feel like they are different from this line of thought as they drafted Ezekiel Elliott with the fourth overall pick five years ago, and after three years of service with the team gave him a lengthy contract extension.
Much of the reason why Dallas prioritizes the ability to run the ball (moreover believes that they have to have a bell-cow of a back to do it with) is the success that the organization had in the 1990s with Emmitt Smith.
Obviously what those Cowboys did had a lot going on besides one of the best running backs to ever play the game, but having a Pro Football Hall of Famer at the position certainly doesn’t hurt. Emmitt Smith is the NFL’s all-time leading rusher after all and has been for almost 20 years, but if one current running back has anything to do with it that record could fall in a couple of seasons.
Adrian Peterson reiterated his goal to pass Emmitt Smith as the NFL’s all-time leading rusher
There are not a lot of active running backs who are eventual locks for gold jackets and bronze busts, but Adrian Peterson is certainly the best case out there (Frank Gore is an arguable candidate as well).
In case you forgot, Peterson was drafted during the same year that the Cowboys took Anthony Spencer to put some proper context here, and while he isn’t dominating the league year in and year out, he is still active.
Speaking to TMZ Sports, Peterson noted that he wants to be a 40-year old back rushing for 1,500 yards. He is going to be turning 36 next month.
“I want to live to be a 40-year-old back out there rushing for 1,500 yards and amazing people still,” Peterson tells us.
“I’m going to keep playing, trying to chase the championship,” Peterson says, “and, God’s willing, within the process of doing that, I’m able to catch Emmitt and pass him.”
It certainly is not impossible for Peterson to be part of a team that wins a Super Bowl in the near future. Just look at the fact that LeSean McCoy, another formerly great runner, has been a part of the last two Super Bowl-winning teams (yes, both the 2019 Kansas City Chiefs and 2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers) without being active in either big game. But his other goal seems far less attainable.
Peterson’s own goal has changed a bit since just last year. Over this past summer he said he wanted to play four more years, now that has changed to be playing in his age 40 season.
Say that Peterson does make it to that point in his career, though. At present moment he would need 3,536 yards to pass Emmitt Smith. If we are to assume that he would play through his age 40 season that means that he would be playing five more years (which is two more than he speculated last year). He would need to average 707 yards a season which, given his post-Minnesota Vikings career, is mathematically sound:
Adrian Peterson post-Minnesota Vikings
- 2017 (New Orleans Saints & Arizona Cardinals): 156 carries, 529 yards
- 2018 (Washington Football Team): 251 carries, 1,042 yards
- 2019 (Washington Football Team): 211 carries, 898 yards
- 2020 (Detroit Lions): 156 carries, 604 yards
Peterson has averaged 768 yards per season since he became a journeyman. He has played 57 games over the last four years and logged 774 carries. Finding teams to continue to not only give him a roster spot but use him to that degree might be the tallest task as talent can generally be found for much lower costs, but perhaps it really is doable for Peterson.
Do you think he will be able to pull it off?