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Using the Projection Machine to Zero in on Adrian Peterson’s Forecast


I thought it might be good to do another “how to” article for the Projection Machine.

It’s a powerful tool, but if no one knows how to use it, it doesn’t really help.

Today I’ll look at Adrian Peterson and explore the potential that the Norv Turner offense might have for AP.

To start projecting I begin at the team level and make some assumptions as to the Vikings average scoring margin and run tendency for the season. Here is a screenshot of the assumptions I made.


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I’m assuming that consistent with the Vegas win total over/under, the Vikes will run their plays down by an average of 4.5 points. Then I also looked at the Chargers run/pass play calling tendency when Philip Rivers was a young QB to get a pass tendency assumption. I assume that the Vikings will be fairly run heavy. That also jives with their personnel for 2014. Norv Turner has also generally been on the slow side of play calling as well so I assume that they will run fewer plays than average.

Then I can move on to the RB1 assumptions to look at AP specifically.  I made these assumptions to generate a projection for AP:

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I assumed that AP would consume a share of the team carries that is roughly on par with his workload for the past 5 or so seasons. It’s slightly below the peak of those seasons, but I think that accounts for injury potential. It’s right on par with his 2013 workload, where he did miss a few games. For the receiving assumptions I left them as the league average, but right in line with his 2012 output.

Here’s what I consider to be a rough baseline for Peterson in 2014, a projection that was generated using the above assumptions:

RB1 Peterson, Adrian 285.24 1283.56 10.84 50.03 36.52 297.67 8.15 1.06 3 6 266.06

I should maybe clarify that when I say baseline, I don’t mean the worst case scenario. I mean that’s sort of the mean expectation. The rushing attempts are in line with his 2013 output. If he misses more than a couple of games this projection will be too high. If he plays the entire season this projection will be too low. You can see that he’s being drafted as the third RB and this projects him to finish at sixth among RBs. I don’t think that means he’s overvalued necessarily. Also, there are additional steps available to us.

The reception assumptions are currently set to league average. But Norv Turner systems have provided more than league average targets to RBs.

If you look at San Diego’s history with Norv it provides a decent range of outcomes that we might expect for targets to RBs. Here’s the graph that shows percent of targets to RBs in SD:

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When Norv had elite pass catcher LaDanian Tomlinson you can see that he regularly allocated 16-18% to the RB1. But it’s also worth noting that Tomlinson saw his biggest receiving seasons before Norv got there.

You can see that when Norv had Ryan Mathews as something of a de facto RB1 (Mike Tolbert and Darren Sproles also contributed at RB) then the RB1’s share of receptions was less. I think something closer to Ryan Mathews’ involvement is more likely with AP, who has a mixed record as a receiver. But that assumption is still above league average.

If you need help setting assumptions, you can always pull up another tab with the Career Graphs App and use that. Here’s the output from that app that shows the difference between Ryan Mathews and LT when it comes to target market shares.

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If I set the target percentage to 13%, which is right where Ryan Mathews came in during his last season with Norv, it improves AP’s projection and gets him up to RB5.

RB1 Peterson, Adrian 285.24 1283.56 10.84 65.04 47.48 386.97 8.15 1.38 3 5 287.86

If you think I’m being overly conservative in AP’s receiving projection it’s worth noting that his prior career high was 43 receptions, so this does project a career receiving year for him.

At RB3 I think AP is generally a safe pick based in part on Norv Turner, but also in part on the fact that they don’t really have anyone right now who could steal touches. That’s worth monitoring as we get into August. Norv is actually prone to breaking up RB touches when he has the bodies to do it. But in this case the bodies behind AP are Matt Asiata, Jerick McKinnon and maybe Zach Line. McKinnon seems like a stretch to steal receptions just because he’s a rookie. Line might actually be the most logical beneficiary if all of the receptions don’t go to AP. Line is a FB so presumably he can pass block. He also had 33 receptions in his last year of college. Matthew Freedman wrote a great piece about Line last year.

I think AP could see a bump in receptions this year, but it’s also not likely to be a number that’s two times his past production. It might be more like a 20-30% bump. The prevailing issue with AP is almost always whether he’ll appear in every game. If he does, he’s probably a safe bet to be a top 5 RB.

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