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Peterson's size, speed, power makes him top running back

This is the second of a series of stories on players eligible for the April 28 NFL Draft.

Today's story deals with running backs.

Because of his boundless energy, Adrian Peterson's parents called him, "A.D.," which is short for "All Day."

This fall, he is seeking a new title: All Pro.

It's a logical expectation for the Oklahoma junior, who is the top-rated running back in the upcoming NFL draft.

The Buffalo Bills could use A.D. in their backfield. But with the 12th overall pick, he might be out of their reach.

Peterson is considered one of the five best players in the draft, and with good reason. Blessed with a perfect combination of size, speed and power, the 6-foot-1 1/2 , 217-pounder is a potentially dominant ball carrier with all the tools to be great.

He's adept at breaking tackles (70 percent of his rushing yards were gained after contact) and is elusive enough to make defenders miss. He also answered questions about his receiving skills with a strong showing at Oklahoma's "Pro Day."

"He's an explosive runner," Browns General Manager Phil Savage said at the NFL Scouting Combine. "Every time he touches the ball there is a chance he could take it the distance. He could have four or five, what you might call ordinary runs, and then he'll explode for a 50-yard run."

Peterson has an upright running style, which is reminiscent of Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson -- the player Peterson has been compared to the most.

"Man, being compared to Eric Dickerson, that's crazy," Peterson said at the combine. "He's one of the greatest running backs. It's an honor to be compared to him."

The way Peterson runs raises concerns about his durability. Injuries were a big part of his career at Oklahoma. He had a dislocated left shoulder as a freshman in 2004, a right high ankle sprain the following year and missed seven games with a suffered a fractured left collarbone last season, though he came back to play in the epic Fiesta Bowl game against Boise State.

Despite playing in only 31 games over three seasons, he finished third on Oklahoma's career rushing list with 4,045 yards and 5.4 yards per carry. If he had four healthy years, he might have broken the all-time NCAA rushing record.

"It was a missed opportunity, but I have no regrets," he said. "Everything happens for a reason. Whatever happened in the past, I'm looking forward to going into the NFL. It's my dream."

If the Bills don't get Peterson, they could end up with the draft's second-rated running back, California's Marshawn Lynch. A 5-11, 215-pound junior is strong enough to run between the tackles and has the speed to bounce outside.

Peterson is considered the better pure runner, but Lynch may be more versatile. He thrived in California's pro-style, two-back offense, rushing for 3,230 yards (6.6 per carry) and 29 touchdowns in three seasons. He also caught 68 passes for 600 yards and six scores.

"I think I stack up right there with [Peterson]," Lynch said at the combine. "There's a lot of things I'm bringing to the table. I can run inside and out. I can get to the edge, catch the ball out of the backfield, line up at receiver and in the slot."

About the only thing that will affect Lynch's draft stock is the character issue. He was accused of punching, slapping and sexually assaulting his ex-girlfriend in December, but charges were never filed.

Peterson and Lynch are the only backs projected to be first-rounders, but several good prospects will be available in the second and third rounds. That list includes Ohio State's Antonio Pittman, Auburn's Kenny Irons, Arizona's Chris Henry, Louisville's Michael Bush, Florida State's Lorenzo Booker and Rutgers' Brian Leonard.
Next: Wide receivers.

e-mail: awilson@buffnews.com1

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