John Lopez of Sports Illustrated identifies Adrian Peterson as the player the Vikings can least afford to lose:
"But what happens if Peterson goes down? Devastation to all Vikes hopes. That's what happens."
Adrian Peterson is an excellent running back. I do not believe, however, that he is indispensable to the Vikings, and I do not believe he's the most important player on the team.
It is easy to think Peterson is indispensable, since he is the team's best offensive player and arguably the team's best player. The Vikings win by running the ball, and Peterson is the dominant RB for the team. But the Vikings do have a very good backup in Chester Taylor. In 2007, when Adrian Peterson missed two games with injury, the Vikes went 2-0 as Taylor had 291 total yards and 4 touchdowns. In his career, Taylor has 4.3 rushing yards per attempt, and he's also an effective receiver (three seasons with 40+ receptions). He's more explosive than he's often given credit for: in 2006 he had a 95 yard run, and in 2007 he had an 84 yard run. Taylor is not a great RB, but he is a good RB.
I certainly think Adrian Peterson makes the Vikings much better, and in the past two years we've seen him simply take over football games on several occasions. But if Adrian Peterson were to get injured, the Vikings still have a dominant defensive line, a good overall defense, a giant offensive line, and some talented and fast skill position players. They'd still be a very talented, very good football team.
Am I wrong? Do you think Adrian Peterson is, in fact, the most critical player on the Vikings, the one player they can't succeed without? I'd like to nominate some other candidates:
He's a great run-stopping cornerback, and by far the best pass defender in the secondary. Without Winfield, I think the the secondary starts to look vulnerable. Maybe awful.
Allen single-handedly gives the Vikings a fearsome pass rush, which can transform the Viking defense from good to dominant.
I'm not sure there's a more dominant player on the Vikings. His quickness and power makes him a disruptive force against the run and the pass.