One of the most intriguing match-ups in the first round of our "Be The GM" series is between the two most dominant non-quarterback skill position players in the NFL in Adrian Peterson and Calvin Johnson. Both were in the 2007 NFL Draft class and will play the majority of the season at the age of 28.
As a running back, Peterson's impact was instantaneous, rushing for 1,341 yards and 12 touchdowns as a rookie. With opposing defenses focused on containing Peterson, his yards per carry dropped below 5.0 for the next four seasons, even with a rejuvenated Brett Favre at quarterback for two of those.
When Peterson tore his ACL toward the end of the 2011 season, many expected to see a limited version of his previous self, but he came back stronger and more dominant than ever. Peterson rushed for 2,097 yards and 12 touchdowns on 348 carries, good for a remarkable 6.0 yards per attempt and 131.1 yards per game.
The concern with running backs is always longevity, but Peterson's return and comments on the condition of his knee by Dr. James Andrews suggests he can sustain 100 percent production for another three seasons and possibly 80 percent of that for another two or three years. Running backs typically fall off a cliff once they accumulate too much wear and tear, but Peterson is as likely as anyone to become the exception.
Johnson posted good numbers for bad teams early in his career before breaking out in 2011 with 1,681 yards and 16 touchdowns to lead the Detroit Lions to playoffs and establish himself as the NFL's most dominant receiver. Johnson doesn't have as strong of a route tree as other receivers, but he is able to use his length and physical superiority to overmatch opposing secondaries downfield.
Like Peterson, Johnson was historically excellent in 2012 with 122 catches for 1,964 yards. Johnson only caught five touchdowns and the Lions missed the playoffs, but both the touchdowns and wins figures to increase this season.
Johnson almost certainly has more elite seasons remaining than Peterson as wide receivers can remain in their prime into their mid-thirties.