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2012 Draft Prep: Not the year to gamble on AP

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Christmas Eve 2011 wasn't fun for Adrian Peterson, the Vikings or Fantasy owners. Everyone got stuck with a bad wish list. We all must have been naughty.

Peterson suffered a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee the day before Christmas against the Redskins, and his comeback has been one of the biggest storylines this offseason. We all hope Peterson will be ready for Week 1 against Jacksonville, and Fantasy owners want to know where to take him on Draft Day.

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If you're asking me, the answer is stay away based on where you have to draft him. The prediction here is Peterson will have the worst season of his career, and I don't want him on my Fantasy team based on the cost. I'll let someone else reach for Peterson, and I would only draft him if he fell to the right spot, which is likely Round 4.

Average Draft Position shows Peterson being drafted in Round 2, which is too expensive for me. I'd rather take my chances with Ryan Mathews, Fred Jackson, Jamaal Charles, Trent Richardson or Ahmad Bradshaw, who are all being taken after Peterson based on ADP. All of them have a healthier outlook coming into the season than Peterson.

For starters, let's take a look at running backs coming back from a torn ACL. Over the past 15 years, some of the more prominent running backs to suffer a torn ACL include Jamal Anderson (hurt in 1999), Terrell Davis (1999), Edgerrin James (2001), Jamal Lewis (2001), Deuce McAllister (2005) and Ronnie Brown (2007).

The good news is that nearly all of these running backs had success the year after getting hurt. Only Davis didn't return to form after suffering his torn ACL, but Anderson (1,400 total yards and six touchdowns), James (1,300 total yards and three touchdowns), Lewis (1,700 total yards and seven touchdowns), McAllister (1,200 total yards and 10 touchdowns) and Brown (1,100 total yards and 10 touchdowns) were all successful.

The bad news for Peterson's comeback is all of these running backs got hurt early in the year. Brown suffered his torn ACL the latest in Week 7 in 2007. They all had ample recovery time to return the following year. It's why we like Charles (torn ACL in Week 2 last season) to be a better Fantasy option this season over Peterson because he should be farther along in his recovery.

Peterson has said he is preparing to face the Jaguars in the season opener, even though he has been limited in training camp and won't play in the preseason.

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"My goals are still the same," Peterson told the Minnesota media last week. "I look forward to being back the first week."

We're glad Peterson is optimistic, but the Vikings seem to be taking a more cautious approach, which is smart. They need to save Peterson from himself if need be, and coach Leslie Frazier doesn't want to take any chances with his best player rushing back too soon from a serious injury.

"We need to determine what's the next step," Frazier said in a news conference. "We have some ideas of how we want to approach it, but a lot of it is how he feels with some of the things we're going to give him."

What the Vikings should do is ease Peterson back into action. The smart thing would be to sit him out for a couple of weeks and rely on Toby Gerhart, who is looking like a great value pick in Round 9 based on his ADP. Gerhart could end up playing a vital role for the Vikings this year if Peterson suffers any sort of setback.

Instead, look for Peterson's first game action since the injury to come against Jacksonville. Any owner who invested in him in Round 2 or higher will be holding their breath the first time he touches the ball. I don't want that kind of anxiety. This is just Fantasy Football, after all.

If you're inclined to draft Peterson just make sure to invest in Gerhart. At least he'll have you covered should Peterson go down again.

Believe me, none of us want to see Peterson standing on the sidelines. He has been one of the best Fantasy running backs during his career, and we want him healthy and active. His production speaks for itself. He has double digits in touchdowns in all five years of his career, and prior to last season he never had fewer than 1,500 total yards. But he did all of that production on two good knees, and his health status has me concerned.

This will likely be the worst season of Peterson's career. He's not someone I plan to target on Draft Day. I hate having to say that, but his knee injury will prevent him from being a superstar Fantasy option in 2012.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg and on Facebook .

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