Photo - Hannah Foslien (Getty Images)

By: Aj Mansour | KFAN.com
@AjKFAN

Minneapolis, MN - When you break it down and analyze the best running back in the league, it becomes increasingly difficult to highlight weaknesses. Most protect the ball well, they hit the gap well and their open field speed is elite. But when you ask anybody what Adrian Peterson's biggest weakness is, one particular flaw continuously comes to mind.

Common perception continues to be that Adrian Peterson is not a good pass catching running back, a trait that will supposedly not serve him well in Norv Turner's new offense.

Turner's rendition of the old "Air Coryell" offense has traditionally featured a heavy dose of passing to the backs releasing out of the backfield. While you could say that he's traditionally been paired with great pass catching backs (LaDainian Tomlinson, Ricky Williams and Emmitt Smith), you could just as easily say that his offensive style has created great pass catching running backs.

Over the years, teams running a Norv Turner designed offense average 105.9 receptions for backs coming out of the backfield. Compare that to the league average of 78.125 back receptions for teams in 2013 and you can get a decent picture of what we can expect on offense here in Minnesota this upcoming season.

According to head coach Mike Zimmer, the Vikings are comfortable with Peterson's ability to catch the ball.

"I think I've seen him drop one ball the whole time [at mandatory mini camps]," Zimmer explained last week. "He catches the ball good. Obviously, when he's got the ball in his hands he's extremely dangerous."

But realistically how bad is AP at catching passes? And how does he compare to some of the great pass catching running backs in the NFL?

Let's find out.

Throughout his seven year career Adrian has been targeted 288 times through the air. That breaks down to 41 targets a season and just over 2.5 targets per game for one of the league's most dangerous yards-after-catch players. Of those 288 passes, Peterson successfully reeled in 206 of those targets giving him a career reception rate of 71.5%.

In 2013, Peterson was targeted only 39 times catching 29 passes for a reception rate of 74.4%.

The table below highlights the 2013 performances of the top five pass-catching backs (by reception rate for backs with 70+ targets) around the league compared to Peterson's stats.

PLAYER NAME
RECEPTION RATE
RECEPTIONS
TARGETS
Adrian Peterson
74.4%
29
39
Pierre Thomas
91.7%
77
84
Danny Woodhead
88.4%
76
86
Knowshon Moreno
81.1%
60
74
Darren Sproles
79.8%
71
89
Matt Forte
78.7%
74
94

Peterson's struggles with blocking and protection have sidelined him on third downs for most of his career, thus taking away many opportunities to catch passes, but with ten dropped passes last year and a reception rate nearly 15% below the league leader, it makes it tough to trust him in the passing game on a regular basis.

There is one glaring difference between Adrian Peterson and all of the quarterbacks on this list. Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles have Drew Brees, Woodhead has Rivers, Moreno has Manning and Forte has Cutler. Each running back has been paired with franchise quarterbacks. Admittedly, quarterbacks of varying skill levels, but franchise nonetheless.

Interesting.

When you look at it historically, a guy who is used to being on par with some of the best running backs in the history of the game, pales in comparison to some of the great pass catching backs.

PLAYER NAME
RECEPTION RATE
RECEPTIONS
TARGETS
Adrian Peterson
71.5%
206
288
Marshall Faulk*
77.8%
477
613
Steven Jackson
73.5%
440
599
Brian Westbrook
73.2%
442
604
LaDainian Tomlinson
71.9%
623
867
*Targets were not officially tracked until 1998

Comparatively speaking, Adrian's career reception percentage is not that far off from the career numbers for some of the best pass-catching backs of all-time. That said, he is targeted much less. But is it Adrian's fault or should the onus be placed somewhere else?

Peterson's best year in terms of pass-catching seemed to come in 2009 when Brett Favre led the Minnesota Vikings to their most dangerous and most balanced offensive attack in recent memory. Adrian caught 43 passes for 436 yards that season and followed it up with 36 catches and 341 yards in 2010.

I want to be clear. I am by no means taking all of the blame off of Peterson, but when an offense is dangerous, when it is balanced and when it has a sufficient quarterback under center, a running back is likely to have a better year receiving the ball.

The question now becomes, will this Norv Turner offense be more balanced than Vikings' offenses of yesteryear? Will Matt Cassel or Teddy Bridgewater be more competent under center than Vikings' quarterbacks of year's past?

Don't give up on Adrian Peterson out of the backfield just yet. If a new offense and a new quarterback can't help his receiving game, then you have an argument. But let's take a step back and see what he does in 2014 before passing final judgment.

Aj Mansour covers Minnesota Sports for KFAN.com. Feel free to leave comments and questions regarding this post in the space provided below. For Vikings updates and breaking Vikings news, follow Aj on Twitter. @AjKFAN