Adrian Peterson's back! Should fantasy owners start the Vikings RB in Week 15?

You've made it this far in your league without him, so should you really start him during the biggest game of your season?
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Adrian Peterson will reportedly return to the field on Sunday against the Colts—his first game action since tearing his meniscus in Week 2. The Vikings will undoubtedly welcome his return during their playoff push, but should Peterson be in your lineup this week?

The short answer is “only if you’re desperate.” We’ve discussed multiple times this season how dangerous injury optimism is for fantasy owners. It’s easier to remember that when the player in question is, say, Dion Lewis, rather than a guy who, when healthy, is one of the best running backs in the league. The adage, however, holds true in this case, as well. As great as Peterson is, he still checks in as an RB3 this week and—unless he makes me look foolish on Sunday—the rest of the season.

Peterson has proved multiple times in his career that the usual injury rules don’t apply to him, most notably when he returned ahead of schedule for Week 1 in 2012 after tearing his ACL and MCL in the final game of the previous season to run for 2,097 yards en route to the MVP award. Still, don’t let the name blind you to the facts.

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When Peterson steps on the field Sunday, it will be his first game action in three months. The meniscus repair was his second major knee surgery in the last five years. He’s also had two surgeries on his groin and has three documented ankle injuries that required him to miss time, going back to his college days at Oklahoma. The older you are, the harder it is to return from injury, and even though he has some freak-of-nature qualities, Peterson is 31 years old. It’s reasonable to think that the guy who had one of the best running back seasons in NFL history less than a year removed from a seemingly catastrophic knee injury when he was 27 years old is gone.

Peterson may be in the talent stratosphere while Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata are down with the rest of us mortals on earth, but there’s no guarantee the Vikings feature their star back. In fact, it would be wise to expect both McKinnon and Asiata to mix in, possibly to the point of combining for a majority of the carries. A relatively healthy Peterson changes the equation for the Vikings, but it’s hard to imagine him being ready to handle a full workload in his first game in three months after undergoing knee surgery.

If Peterson is available in your league, you should add him. If you already own him, you can add him to your possible starting options this week. Understand that you should not turn away from any back sure to handle 15 or more carries. Some borderline starters I’m still playing over him include Ryan Mathews, Rashad Jennings and Isaiah Crowell.