Peterson remains confident after knee surgery

For the first time in his NFL career, Adrian Peterson will not be one of the first players selected in fantasy football drafts next season. In fact, he won’t even be taken in the first round after suffering a ruptured ACL and torn MCL in a Christmas Eve contest against the Redskins.

Where then, is it safe to draft one of fantasy’s once-elite running backs?

That remains to be seen, but we have received our first bit of news on Peterson’s recent reconstructive knee operation from Vikings’ head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman, who met with reporters on Friday to give an update on A.D.’s status. Sugarman reported that Peterson’s knee was painful in the week after surgery, which is normal, but all indications are that the procedure was a success. Peterson is also confident that he’ll make a full recovery.

In fact, the talented running back suggested that he will be even “better than [he] was before.” While that statement is admirable, the fact remains that most NFL players who come off such a serious procedure need at least one full year to regain both mental and physical confidence in the knee. Look at Wes Welker, who had a late-season ACL injury with the Patriots in 2008 and saw his 2009 totals decrease in both the reception and yardage categories.

ACL ailments can be even tougher for running backs to overcome, as we have seen in the past from the likes of Jamal Anderson, Edgerrin James and more recently, Kevin Smith. And when you consider how hard Peterson runs and how late in the season he was injured, well, coming back better than he was before, at least in 2012, is a long shot.

As it stands, I’d consider A.D. a second- or third-round pick (assuming he has no setbacks over the next several months and will be back in time for Week 1). But if we start hearing the term PUP list once we get into the summer time, Peterson’s stock could fall even further.

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