After three games back in the saddle, you can tell Adrian Peterson is already gaining confidence. He's running with authority, seeing open running lanes, and finding the end zone. Peterson looks revitalized, like a young A.P./A.D. prancing through opposing secondaries with ease, and he's not being shy about it.
According to Peterson, this -- his ninth season in the NFL -- could have been his 12th, if he'd had his way.
Amid recent whispers about LSU sophomore running back Leonard Fournette's Heisman season, ineligible draft status and comparisons to Peterson, the Vikings running back suggested that Fournette should be able to enter the draft as a sophomore, because, well, Peterson could have done it as a senior in high school.
"Not to sound cocky or anything, or confident," Peterson told the media Monday, "but yeah, I do feel like I could have came out my senior year of high school and played in the NFL.
"People were like 'well, physically you just weren't ready.' I came in my freshman year and I was up for the Heisman, had a pretty good season, was the leading rusher."
Peterson has a point. He rushed for 2,960 yards and 32 touchdowns as a high school senior in 2003 and then in his freshman year at Oklahoma, Peterson ran for 1,925 yards and 15 touchdowns on 339 carries, falling second in Heisman voting to former USC quarterback Matt Leinart during his stellar junior season. Don't believe those stats? Watch the tape. He continued his dominance in his sophomore and junior seasons before suffering a broken collarbone diving into the end zone halfway through his junior year.
NFL analysts from far and wide are heralding Fournette -- 631 yards and eight touchdowns in three games -- as the second coming of Peterson. Lance Zierlein, NFL Media draft analyst, said after Fournette's monster game against Auburn, "I waited all season for Fournette to look like Adrian Peterson last season, when Fournette was a freshman, and it never happened. As he broke tackles and showed burst around the edge, he had that 'All Day' look."
His dominance in the SEC is making people question whether he should be *allowed * to play another year in college. However, hopping to the draft too early seems like a bad idea.
As was evident from Peterson's injury in college and similar injuries to promising college backs like Marcus Lattimore, it's very difficult to see a young, undeveloped football body succeeding sans injury in the NFL at the age of 18. The injury risks are always too great, which is one of the reasons why the league requires players to spend at least three years in college before entering the draft. (For what it's worth, Fournette has no desire to go rogue and attempt to enter the 2016 draft or sit out his junior season.)
If we instead lived in an alternate dystopian universe where Peterson entered the NFL at age 18, then at this point in time, he'd have at least three more years of NFL running on those legs, barring he didn't suffer another injury. Let's be thankful for Adrian Peterson that we have and enjoy making college-to-NFL comparisons without actual consequences.