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Adrian Peterson isn't the LeBron James of the NFL, but Peyton Manning might be

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Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson both say they're the NFL's version of LeBron James, but if there is one, it's not a running back.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

First, Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles said he's the LeBron James of the NFL, then it was Adrian Peterson. On Saturday night, the Minnesota Vikings running back said he'd "definitely have to say" that he's the NFL's version of James.

While both players are among the top running backs in the NFL, there are probably more differences between them and LeBron rather than similarities. For one, running backs just can't take over and dominate quite like a basketball player at the top of his game can.

Only seven players have finished with more than 2,000 rushing yards in a season and just one of those seasons happened on a Super Bowl-winning team. Only two of those players even played for a team that won its division. But that's what is inherently different about football, a game with 22 players with specialized niches, and basketball, a game with five players who play both offense and defense.

So who is the LeBron-iest? First, let's look at what exactly that means, broken into a few categories:

1) Greatness

LeBron James is really, really good. Like really good. He's unquestionably the best basketball player in the world right now and is in the GOAT argument. Debating his merits against those of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant is for another discussion, so we'll just leave it at this: LeBron is great.

2) Dominance

When LeBron is at his best, he can take over a game and there's really nothing the opposition can do about it. In the NBA Finals, he led the Cleveland Cavaliers to a surprisingly competitive series without Kyrie Irving or Kevin Love due mostly to the fact that he just dominated in every facet.

3) Name recognition

There's no other LeBron. He really could just drop "James" from his name and wear his first name on his back like a Brazilian soccer player and nobody would ever get confused. When someone says LeBron, we all know exactly who they're talking about.

4) Cultural icon

Whether or not LeBron James ever stars in a Space Jam 2 is kind of irrelevant in terms of his stardom. He's already a movie star, who took his commercial-acting talent to the silver screen and killed it in Trainwreck.

5) Rings and trophies

Most of the Jordan/Bryant vs. James debates devolve to the point that Jason Segel hammers home in Bad Teacher, LeBron doesn't have many championship rings. But he does have two, which might pale in comparison to former NBA greats, but is pretty damn good by NFL standards. Two NBA Finals MVPS, four NBA MVPs and 11 NBA All-Star nods certainly add to his résumé a bit too.

* * *

The Candidates

Adrian Peterson

LeBron-ness Report Card Greatness Dominance Name Icon Rings/Trophies GPA
Adrian Peterson B+ B C+ D B- 2.40

Peterson is the best running back of his generation, but not so transcendent that he's leaving the best running backs in history in the dust. Still, his greatness at the position is his best case at being the LeBron James of the NFL.

While just four career playoff games hurts his case, it's his recent transgressions that hold him back more. LeBron never gets suspended, let alone misses basically an entire season. Regardless of your opinion of Peterson's use of corporal punishment on his son, it's hard to imagine the Vikings running back starring in a movie any time soon.

Jamaal Charles

LeBron-ness Report Card Greatness Dominance Name Icon Rings/Trophies GPA
Jamaal Charles B- C+ D D C 1.80

Poor Jamaal Charles would've had a better argument if Adrian Peterson wasn't around. Charles is the NFL's all-time king in yards per carry, but you'd be hard pressed to find someone who says he's this generation's best running back ahead of Peterson.

Aside from yards per carry, what argument does Charles have for LeBron-ness that Peterson doesn't?

Peyton Manning

LeBron-ness Report Card Greatness Dominance Name Icon Rings/Trophies GPA
Peyton Manning A- B+ A A- B+ 3.60

Sorry, running backs, but Peyton kind of crushes you on this one. Like LeBron, Manning has an argument as the greatest ever in his sport. And like LeBron, his detractors will point to his lack of championships as the reason why he isn't.

Manning hasn't starred in a movie yet, but is anyone doubting that he could? He's already been a hilarious SNL host and his commercials are always great. As far as name recognition goes, "Peyton" is about as well-known of a football name as there is.

Tom Brady

LeBron-ness Report Card Greatness Dominance Name Icon Rings/Trophies GPA
Tom Brady A- B A B+ A 3.60

The Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady debate will likely continue after both player has retired, so giving them the same greatness rating only seems fair. However, I'll give Manning the slight edge in ability to take over a game, while giving Brady an even bigger edge in the accolades section.

Brady certainly has the name recognition too, even if it's currently being fueled by DeflateGate more than football. While he's been in movies like Ted 2, he hasn't exactly been a movie star, although he wants to be.

Like always, Brady is neck-and-neck with Peyton, but doesn't seem as Lebron-y. How does NFL's Kobe Bryant sound?

Aaron Rodgers

LeBron-ness Report Card Greatness Dominance Name Icon Rings/Trophies GPA
Aaron Rodgers B+ B A- B A- 3.33

Aaron Rodgers is certainly on his way toward being known as one of the NFL's all-time greats, but he still only has seven seasons as the starting quarterback of the Green Bay Packers. That's a decent amount of time, but not quite the level that LeBron, Peyton or Brady have accrued.

Maybe with a few more years to work with, Rodgers will be in movies and have the name brand value that Manning and Brady have managed to rack up. Keep doing things like Discount Double Check commercials and lip sync videos with Olivia Munn, and he'll be there in no time.

J.J. Watt

LeBron-ness Report Card Greatness Dominance Name Icon Rings/Trophies GPA
J.J. Watt B- B+ B B- B- 2.87

For the football fans of the world, 2014 and 2015 have been J.J. Watt, J.J. Watt and more J.J. Watt, but he hasn't quite transcended football to the point that the non-football fan knows who he is like they know Manning or Brady.

That mostly has to do with the fact that he's still a very new phenomenon. He only has four NFL seasons under his belt and was really just good, not great, as a rookie. He may be the NFL's most dominant, physical force right now, but it's how much does a dominant defensive end really add in the win column? It's a position that doesn't quite carry a team like a quarterback does, but hey, he's more LeBron-y than the running backs.

* * *

If the NBA is a superstar-driven league, the NFL is a franchise QB-driven one. So if there's a LeBron James it's probably at the quarterback position, and while Aaron Rodgers might be the man of right now, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have established themselves as the pair to beat of their generation.

Considering the Manning vs. Brady debate will always weigh the importance of Super Bowl rings and the narrative surrounding LeBron vs. Kobe/Jordan is the same, Peyton just seems a little more LeBron-y than Brady.

So, how does this look?