Is Adrian Peterson the greatest rusher of all time?
Peterson looks like he is hitting his 2-4 year peak and Peterson thinks those years will be better than his last, stating when he thinks he will break Smith's mark "Man. I better go late. I'm already getting too far in front of myself. I'll say Week 16. There it is. Week 16 in 2017. Woo. That's pushing it, huh? But hey, pushing it is the only way to do it. You know it." He is that good, and he knows it.
Smith's record while gaudy was aided by perhaps the best offensive line the league has ever seen, and a Hall of Fame passing attack. On the other hand Peterson has not had a reliable passing game for more than a year during his career to take some focus from him, so reaching Smith's record would be all the more impressive. Not only is AP aiming for the all-time mark, but he is gunning for Eric Dickerson's single season mark of 2,105 yards, which he missed by eight yards last season. The most impressive thing about Peterson’s last season was that he was coming off ACL reconstruction. He stated that he wants to rush for an unthinkable 2,500 yards this upcoming season.
Many will argue that Jim Brown and Walter Payton could be the greatest backs to ever play. Their numbers are exceptionally remarkable, but it is impossible to compare them and other players of earlier generations to the modern age players because the athletes now are much stronger and faster. The only player that I can compare with the eye test to Peterson is Barry Sanders, but he lacked the devastating power that Peterson has. In my mind, Peterson is the most physically gifted runner to ever play in the NFL.
So to answer the question, will Adrian Peterson end up as the greatest running back in NFL history? If he stays healthy, yes, I believe that he will break every record, win an MVP, and be undoubtedly the greatest back to ever play the game.