Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFC North [Print without images]

Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Have at It: Matt Forte and Adrian Peterson

By Kevin Seifert

Many of us see the world in black and white, and so it was human nature for you to see the subject matter of KC Joyner's latest analysis and gasp. You need an ESPN Insider subscription to read the entire piece, but here was the headline: "Why Matt Forte rivals Adrian Peterson."

Matt Forte
The past three seaons, Matt Forte has 4,731 yards from scrimmage, trailing only Chris Johnson (5,606), Adrian Peterson (5,343), Maurice Jones-Drew (4,795) and Steven Jackson (4,783).
Joyner never suggested he would choose Forte over Peterson. What he did, however, was apply sports analyst Bill James' tent that "players who do several things well are underrated." Forte is an excellent receiver and has more all-purpose yards over the past three seasons than all but four NFL players.

Joyner employed a number of metrics to argue that Forte is "as good as Peterson." He noted Forte has averaged nearly the same yards per touch as Peterson during his career, while also quantifying what Joyner reported was the Bears' significantly inferior run blocking last season. (Specifics are reserved for Insider subscribers. Sorry.)

So for this installment of Have at It, I'm not going to ask whether you prefer Peterson or Forte. Too easy. What I do want to know is if you, like Bill James and K.C. Joyner, think all-purpose backs like Forte should be valued more in the court of public opinion. (Example: In our ESPN.com offseason power rankings for running backs, Peterson finished No. 2. Forte didn't receive a vote.)

I think we can agree that Peterson is the harder, faster and more physical runner from a traditional standpoint. But does it matter how a player accumulates his yards? Or are the cumulative results the most important? Should we judge "running backs" and "football players" separately?

The question is a bit nuanced, but ultimately more interesting to me -- and hopefully to you. As always, let me know your thoughts in the comments section below. I'll publish a representative sample, along with my own take, by the end of the week. Have at It.