Joe Thomas vs. Adrian Peterson?

Adrian Peterson is a stud. No doubt. His magical start to the season rightly had many people thinking back to draft day and wondering if any of the six teams that passed on Peterson would reconsider that decision today.

Well, maybe yesterday, but how about today? Peterson will reportedly miss up to three weeks after tearing a lateral ligament in his right knee Sunday. Fortunately for Peterson and the Vikes, it’s not one of the big ligaments — the ACL, MCL or even PCL — but it’s a huge blow to a Vikings team that hasn’t been able to do anything but run in their first nine games.

It’s also a big loss for the theory that the Cleveland Browns would’ve been better suited taking Peterson over tackle Joe Thomas at #3. Wrote ESPN’s Todd McShay:

Any of the six teams that passed on him originally might take a mulligan to get (Peterson) this time around, but the Browns look like the best fit right now as they could use a little more running to balance the seventh-best passing game (254.5 ypg) in the league.

Well, durability concerns were the primary reason those top six teams in the draft passed on Peterson, including the Browns. And now Peterson is out for several weeks. No, it’s not related to the collarbone injury that affected his draft stock last April, so some will probably blame a fluke occurrence. But that’s the point: injury prone players fall victim to fluke injuries. That’s why they’re injury prone. And Peterson, unfortunately, is injury prone.

It’s probably safe to assume that the Browns are perfectly content with Thomas. Cleveland nearly knocked off the hated Steelers yesterday for the first time in centuries and they’ve got one of the most potent offenses in football. QB Derek Anderson and WR Braylon Edwards get most of the attention, but their prolific passing game operates behind a much improved offensive line. It’s not all Thomas — the signing of G Eric Steinbach has been a big success — but the rookie sure looks like a franchise left tackle. And as many general managers and quarterbacks know, those don’t come along all that often.

Peterson, of course, looks like a franchise running back, but as a reader noted in a previous TSR post, it’s easier to find a great running back than a great tackle. In fact, in many cases, it takes a great tackle to make a great running back. A great running back isn’t going to make a great tackle, though. You need an offensive line to effectively run the football, and you need to run to win. Minnesota planted Peterson behind one of the better offensive lines in football and Peterson exploded. Put Peterson behind a Browns line that doesn’t include Thomas and he doesn’t lead the league in rushing eight games later, and he certainly doesn’t own the record for most rushing yards in a game.

But the most obvious proof that the Browns made the right call is in the numbers. They’re 5-4 and they’re scoring 28.3 points per game with a running back (Jamal Lewis) averaging 64 rushing yards per game. The Vikings, meanwhile, are 3-6 and they’re scoring 18.4 points per game with a running back (Peterson) averaging 120 yards per game.

In other words, Thomas is still the pick at #3.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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