Adrian Peterson is a fantasy zombie. Just when you think he’s dead he rises back to life again. When Peterson was cut from the Washington Football Team as a surprise cut down casualty, almost everyone in the fantasy world was writing him off as entirely done and not worth rostering. Much to their dismay, AD has once again risen from the dead and has a new home in Detroit. So that means he’s rosterable again, right? Let’s take a look at Peterson’s fantasy value on the Detroit Lions.

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Adrian Peterson’s historical fantasy career

Peterson, who goes by the nickname of “All Day” (AD) because he can “go all day”, has never been one to give up. He’s faced numerous injuries, some major and some minor, and even had some drama off the field, none of which actually seemed to slow him down much. Even last year with Washington, he still ran 211 times for 898 yards. The man truly can go all day.

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In his 14 years, Peterson has amassed a total of 3,036 carries for 14,216 yards and 111 touchdowns just on the ground. Three seasons, all with the Minnesota Vikings, he had more rushing yards than anyone else in the NFL (2008, 2012, 2015). In 2012, he ran for 2,097 yards, which was 400 more yards ahead of second-place Alfred Morris. He’s been a dominant force on the field for a decade and a half and just keeps coming back for more.

Shortly after his release from Washington, PFN’s Lucas Ellinas wrote about Peterson’s on the field performance last year and even speculated that someone would indeed sign him:

“Whichever team picks him up will be getting a solid player who, despite being well past the age when a running back normally stops being effective, can still provide a great deal of value to their offense. And, thanks to his age, they might get him at a favorable price as well.”

It’s hard to argue with that conclusion, and obviously, the Lions agreed since they signed him to a one-year, $1.1 million deal to help bolster their own backfield. Clearly, Peterson still has some fantasy value left in the tank.

Fantasy running back battle: A new challenger has entered the arena

Back in May, I wrote about the fantasy implications of the Detroit Lions backfield battle which consisted largely of rookie RB D’Andre Swift and third-year RB Kerryon Johnson. I came to the same conclusion then that I came to prior to the Peterson signing: “D’Andre Swift but probably not immediately.” Up until now, not much had changed aside from the two both dealing with injuries, but that’s pretty normal in today’s NFL.

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Swift was drafted to be their star of the future since Johnson, their last star of the future, has been somewhat unlucky in terms of injuries. It just hasn’t seemed like Johnson can stay healthy, and that’s very important to NFL teams these days. As the saying goes: the best ability is availability, and Johnson just hasn’t been that available. This left a huge hole for Swift to fill after the draft, and he quickly became a fantasy darling because of his talent combined with the perceived opportunity.

Behind these two the depth chart gets a little bleak. You have Ty Johnson, a 2019 sixth-round pick, Bo Scarbrough, and a bunch of practice squad guys who just got cut. The team was likely staring at the facts of Swift’s recent injuries, although minor, and Johnson’s history of major injuries, although unpredictable, and decided they needed to add some depth. Signing Peterson provides them the chance to at least put someone productive on the field on Sunday if both Swift and Johnson are out, thus giving Peterson yet another life in the NFL.

Fantasy outlook for all three Lions running backs

The depth chart likely goes Swift, then Johnson, then Peterson, at least for now, but that could change if Swift’s injury is bigger than it seems. Perhaps the team knows more than they’re letting on, and Swift’s injury is a bigger concern. On the other hand, they’ve dealt with injury after injury for the last two seasons with Johnson and might just be trying to avoid that headache again. The Lions are like Charlie Brown and their running backs are like Lucy, always pulling the ball of health away at the last second.

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For now, I see both Swift and Johnson taking a hit in terms of potential fantasy value, but not all that much and definitely not equally. Swift’s ADP is 66 overall (RB28) in PPR leagues and Johnson’s is 94 overall (RB36). I would expect Swift’s value to suffer slightly less from this news since rookies tend to carry a lot more upside due to their unknown ceiling potential. Also, while Swift is a little banged up at the moment, it’s not known to be that bad, so Peterson could just be a week-to-week insurance policy for the team while he gets right.

Johnson, on the other hand, definitely takes a larger hit with this signing. He was already fighting with a top-three rookie prospect in Swift for the starting role, but now he’ll have to prove himself against an ageless wonder destined for the Hall of Fame in Peterson. Johnson is likely going to fall further in value due to this signing. If you have either Swift of Johnson on your team, it’s probably best to hold them, but if someone offers you a trade and it feels worth it, I wouldn’t blame you for getting out.

As for Adrian Peterson’s fantasy value, that kind of depends on your league and your roster. If Peterson was dropped and you have an open bench spot then I definitely think he’s worth a stash, just until we see what we have. Peterson has risen from the dead before and produced in terms of fantasy, and while he’s not his younger self, he could still see your starting lineup depending on your bye weeks and how well he performs.

I don’t think I’d be targeting Peterson in a trade just yet, but with the other two backs seeing a value dip, now might not be a bad time to poke their owner to see what it might take to get a trade done. Whoever you get, if the price is right, it could really help your fantasy team in the long run.


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Andrew Hall is a writer for PFN covering the NFL and Fantasy Football. You can follow him on Twitter: @AndrewHallFF.