Sophomore Slump for 2,000-Yard Rushers? Not a Chance…

Adrian Peterson, 2012 Fantasy Football Redraft

One of the biggest questions on Fantasy owners’ minds this year is, “Will Adrian Peterson come close to another 2,000 yards this year?”

Let’s take a deep breath and realize that only seven players in the history of the NFL have rushed for 2,000 yards in a season. And no one has ever done it twice, much less in back-to-back seasons.

I think we can assume that Peterson will not repeat this rare accomplishment.

So how will A.P. follow up his 2,000-yard season?

2,000-yard Rushers and the Year After

Let’s take a look at the other six guys and how 2,000-yard rushers did in the follow-up season, and then I will tell you what I think.

O.J. Simpson

For many readers of this article, O.J. was a famous athlete that was involved in one of the most publicized murder trials in the history of the United States. But prior to his career in sports broadcasting and acting, The Juice was an amazing running back in the NFL.

O.J. Simpson, 2,000-yard rushersIn 1973 as a member of the Buffalo Bills, he rushed for 2,003  yards, becoming the first running back to ever break the 2,000-yard mark. The most impressive part of this feat is that in 1973 the Bills played a 14-game season. He averaged a mind boggling 6.0 yards per attempt, and he would have easily been the No. 1 overall draft pick in any Fantasy Football draft in the summer of 1974 — if they played back then.

In 1974, O.J. followed this amazing season with only 1,125 rushing yards. And I know your next question, fellow Fantasy nerd, how many touchdowns did he have? A paltry three rushing touchdowns. Yikes. O.J. did go on to have a great season in 1975 gaining a little over 1,800 yards, but he never quite got back to his ’73 performance.

As a matter of fact, he was out of the league six years later. But understand one thing about O.J.’s amazing season — the next five guys we are going to look at all did it in a 16-game season.

Eric Dickerson

I wasn’t old enough to watch O.J. carry the pigskin, but I did get to see Dickerson.

I grew up in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and was exposed to Dickerson’s exploits while he was a part of the “Pony Express” while playing football for SMU, back when  SMU had a football team. He was a stud in college and when he hit the NFL with the Rams in 1983, all he did was rush for 1,808 yards in his rookie season.

One short year later, Dickerson became the NFL’s second 2,000-yard rusher with 2,105 yards, which still stands to this day as the single-season NFL rushing record. Dickerson followed up his 2,000-yard season with a season that netted a little over 1,200 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns. Not a bad season at all.

If you were guaranteed those numbers from your first pick this year you would take it, and so would I.

Eric Dickerson, rookie running backs

While the Rams did pass on Jim Kelly and Dan Marino, it’s tough to argue against them drafting Eric Dickerson in 1983. Photo Credit: Kitzanador

Barry Sanders

Barry Sanders Detroit Lions - 2,000-yard rushersI also got to watch Sanders play in college at Oklahoma State University and he was hyped just as much as Dickerson, but for a different reason. Very few people felt like he would be much of a player in the NFL because of his size. What a bunch of morons we were.

The guy averaged a ridiculous 7.8 yards per carry his final year at OSU. Wide receivers would like to have that average per catch! I’m a huge Emmitt Smith fan, but Barry Sanders is the best running back I have ever seen play.

If you’re too young to have watched him, get on this site called YouTube and look at some highlights.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DcHoF0Gjao]

The amazing part about Sanders’ 2,000-yard season is that it didn’t come until his ninth year in the league when he rushed for 2,053 yards in 1997. Sanders’ follow-up year — was his last. At the age of 31, Sanders retired after the ’98-99 season. Oh by the way, he only rushed for 1,491 yards before he hung his cleats up. If you want to see a crazy stat line, look at Sanders’ 10 years in the NFL. He was incredible.

Terrell Davis

Davis was one of the two “bruisers” of the bunch that made it to 2,000 yards. He was an up and down runner, or north and south — choose your cliche. He simply ran over people.

Terrell Davis, RB, Denver

TD was something else to watch. He had decent speed, but was built like a linebacker. In 1998, Davis put up 2,008 rushing yards on close to 400 attempts. There were several detractors that said that Davis’ running style and the Broncos’ desire to hand him the ball every other play would lead to a short career for Davis.

They were right.

In 1999, after leading the Broncos to a Super Bowl victory, he only played in four games, rushing for a little over 200 yards and then retired two years later after just seven seasons in the NFL. He was probably the toughest runner I ever saw, second only to John Riggins in the ’80s.

Jamal Lewis

In 2003 Jamal Lewis busted and mauled his way to a 2066 yard season with the Baltimore Ravens. When Lewis looks back on this season and smiles about it, he needs to call a florist in Northeast Ohio and have a gift basket sent to the Cleveland Browns.

Against the Browns that year he rushed for 295 yards in their first game and 205 in the second one. Almost 25% of his total yards that season came in two games against the lowly Browns.

Lewis was another “up the gut” running back and would have a difficult time repeating such an incredible year with his bruising running style. In 2004 Lewis was only available to play in twelve games, but he still managed to compile 1006 yards and seven touchdowns. Lewis played for nine years in the NFL rushing for over 10000 yards, ironically finishing up his career with the Cleveland browns, who he torched for six years and one magical season.

Chris Johnson

The most recent member of the 2,000-yard rushing club, prior to Peterson, is Tennessee’s CJ2K. In 2009, Johnson’s second year in the NFL, he rushed for 2,006 yards. Johnson is the antithesis of Terrell Davis. He’s a speed guy. If he gets to the second level of a defense, it’s like watching Carl Lewis run the 100.

Chris Johnson, 2013 Fantasy Football Mock Draft

After a horrible start to the 2013 season, Chris Johnson straightened things out. Photo Credit: Phillip_McGruder

Johnson averaged 5.7 yards per carry in 2009 and hasn’t really been able to come close to duplicating that number. In 2010, however, Johnson did rush for 1,364 yards and he scored 11 touchdowns.

His career has been talked about a lot since 2009 as if it is a disappointment. I’m not sure how that sentiment can be expressed when the guy has NEVER had a season with under 1000 yards rushing. Maybe 1,000 yards doesn’t mean what it used to, but I sure think it does.

Looking Ahead For Adrian Peterson

So what can we expect out of A.P. this year? I will give him 1,250 yards on the ground, 11 rushing TDs, 30 receptions, and a couple receiving touchdowns. What I think about most when I watch Peterson run is that he reminds me a little of Terrell Davis.

I just hope he has more miles in the tank than Davis did.

When Heath Garrison isn’t yapping about 2,000-yard rushers, he writes for www.643ball.com, and you can follow him @hgarrison643 for daily tweets.

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