EDITOR’S NOTE: Rick Gosselin spent 20 years as the NFL columnist for the Dallas Morning News, including 20 offseasons studying and researching prospects for the NFL draft. He didn’t watch any tape – he was a writer, not a scout – but he talked to the men who did watch tape. He built a network of NFL general managers, head coaches, personnel directors, scouts and assistant coaches from all 32 teams who would share with him their analyses of players. Gosselin used their insights to build his own draft board, Top 100 board and mock drafts. For 10 consecutive years he had the best Top 100 board in the country (2001-10), according to the Huddle Report, and three times he produced the best mock draft. Gosselin has been resurrecting his college scouting reports this summer for a look back at how NFL talent evaluators viewed draft prospects. Next up is Adrian Peterson, who overcame college injuries to become one of the NFL's most dominant runners.
GOSSELIN DRAFT ANALYSIS: Few schools can boast the running-back tradition of Oklahoma. The Sooners have had nine ball carriers drafted in the first round by the NFL, including three Heisman Trophy winners (Billy Vessels, Steve Owens and Billy Sims). But Adrian Peterson proved to be the best of the bunch. He arrived at Oklahoma in 2004 as the National High School Player of the Year after posting back-to-back 2,000-yard rushing seasons in his only two years of varsity football at Palestine (TX). Then he set NCAA freshman records for the Sooners with his 339 carries, 1,925 yards, nine consecutive 100-yard games and 11 on the season. He reached 1,000 yards rushing by is seventh college game, tying the NCAA record shared by future Pro Football Hall-of-Famers Emmitt Smith and Marshall Faulk. Peterson finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting that season. He missed four games with an ankle injury in 2005 and seven more with a broken collarbone in 2007 but still managed to rush for 1,000 yards both seasons. Peterson decided to skip his senior year to turn pro and measured 6-1 ½, 217 pounds at the NFL scouting combine, clocking a 4.40 40 yard dash with a vertical jump of 38 ½ inches. Gosselin rated Peterson No. 2 on his Top 100 draft board behind Calvin Johnson. The Minnesota Vikings claimed him with the seventh overall choice of the 2007 NFL draft.
Here are comments on Peterson from 11 talent evaluators leading up to his draft:
Scout: May be my first 8.0 (perfect grade) since Eric Dickerson. If I was running the draft, I’d be on the phone every day talking to the Top 3 teams. Those Cadillacs don’t come around like this. He runs tall, but Dickerson ran tall, too. Just as strong as Dickerson with better speed. Impressed with the way he came back from injury to play in his bowl game.
Scout II: Erect runner, relies on his speed. He’s going to get hit in this league.
Scout III: The best. Fast, explosive, quick feet. Runs upright and has had some injuries. But he’s been running like that his whole life.
Scout IV: His height/weight/speed combo is impressive, but he can’t identify plays being run on tape. Just hand him the ball and tell him to run. Hasn’t been healthy for a full season. With his style, he runs so hard and so fast the collisions will intensify at the next level.
Scout V: Top 3 talent. A freak. Size, speed, explosiveness. Super competitor, super tough. He reminds me a lot of Jamal Lewis – when his juice runs out, it’s over. Won’t have a long career. Delivers more blows than he takes. But when he hits the ground, you always cringe.
Offensive coordinator: Scares me. He’ll get broken up with his running style. He can’t run into people like he does in the Big 12. This kid is not elusive and takes big hits. Tries to deliver ‘em, but he’s only 217 pounds. He tries to run straight up and down like he’s Eric Dickerson, but Dickerson was twice his size.
Personnel director: High (injury) risk.
General manager I: His knee and collarbone haven’t healed yet.
General manager II: Not off our board, but the injuries are a concern.
General manager III: Top 3. We’ve got a huge grade on him.
General manager IV: The more you watch Peterson, the more you can argue he’s the best player in this draft.
HALL OF FAME RESUME: Despite his violent running style that left many NFL talent evaluators wondering whether he could stay healthy and on the field, Peterson lasted 14 NFL seasons, went to seven Pro Bowls and won three NFL rushing titles. There were injuries – he managed to stay healthy for all 16 games in a season only three times in his career. But he won NFL rushing crowns in two of them, including a 2,097-yard season in 2012 that earned him NFL MVP honors. Peterson ranks sixth in NFL history in rushing attempts (3,192), fifth in yards (14,820) and fourth in rushing touchdowns (118). He averaged 6.0 yards per carry in his 2,000-yard season and 4.6 yards in his career. He was also selected to the 2010 NFL all-decade team. Peterson played his 14th season at the age of 35 in 2020 with the Detroit Lions, his fourth NFL team since leaving the Vikings in 2017. He still rushed for seven touchdowns for the Lions. Peterson posted 1,000 yards rushing in seven of his nine seasons with Minnesota and picked up his eighth 1,000-yard season with Washington in 2018. His next stop will likely be Canton, Ohio.