The League

Doug Farrar

Doug Farrar

A staff writer

Yo, Adrian!


Turner and Peterson are similar in certain ways -- they're both boom-and-bust guys who will make plays around unproductive or negative attempts. At Football Outsiders, we have a stat called Success Rate, which measures effective plays, based on down and distance, divided by total rushing attempts. Peterson and Turner are 20th and 21st, respectively, in Success Rate, despite the fact that Peterson's 7th in DYAR and Turner's 14th.

Where their styles differ is that Turner, who's built more like a mini-fullback, will blast inside and make holes where there are none. Peterson can do that, but he's so much better than Turner in his lateral agility. Peterson also has much more second-level burst than Turner -- that "second gear" isn't something that Turner really possesses. Neither back catches a lot of passes, though both have displayed the ability to do so.

If I had the choice between the two for my team, I'd have to take Peterson. Both backs force a defense to focus on them, but you don't really get the sense that with Turner, you're always one missed tackle away from defensive disaster. Peterson brings a little more apprehension to opposing defenses with his astonishing athleticism; while Turner's relentlessness will simply wear a defense down. I would want my running back to draw more defensive attention, and Peterson has already proven that he can succeed that way. Think about it -- if you put eight in a box against the Falcons, Matt Ryan will torch you with a bomb to Roddy White. If you do the same to the Vikings (and defenses frequently do), you've got a pretty good shot at a Gus Frerotte or Tarvaris Jackson interception.

That's the tiebreaker for me -- Peterson is the primary focus of every defense he faces because of the ineffectiveness of the Minnesota passing game, and it doesn't stop him. Nothing seems to stop him. If he stays healthy, he's going to be one of the greatest of all time. I'm not there with Turner yet.

By Doug Farrar  |  December 18, 2008; 9:08 AM ET  | Category:  Adrian Peterson , Atlanta Falcons , Doug Farrar , Minnesota Vikings , Running Backs Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Peterson is clearly the bigger threat -- the speed's the thing -- but he wouldn't be as effective in an offense like Atlanta's, which favors a bull rusher like Turner. When Atlanta goes downfield, they do it through the air. That threat frees up lanes for Turner --lanes that otherwise might not be available.

Likewise, Turner couldn't carry the burden Peterson does in Minnesota. He's not a home run back. His presence in the backfield doesn't force the defense into contortions just to keep him from getting outside. It's Peterson's ability to break the big one that helps limit the pass rush, giving the Vike QB an extra half-second to find a receiver.

Still, these are slight differences between terrific players. Nod to Peterson.

Posted by: Samson151 | December 18, 2008 11:09 AM

That's a good point about the Atlanta system fitting Turner -- they run a power zone in which plays take a little longer to devlop. Peterson would probably be outrunning his blocks a lot.

Posted by: Doug_Farrar | December 18, 2008 7:20 PM

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