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Top 10 afterthought acquisitions: Adrian Peterson lives

The Khalil Mack blockbuster aside, it hasn't been a banner year for big-ticket offseason acquisitions.

Among the veteran field generals switching allegiances in March, Sam Bradford and Tyrod Taylor have already been yanked in favor of their respective franchises' quarterbacks of the future. The Bills traded their stopgap signal-caller, AJ McCarron, before he ever played a down in Buffalo.

On the other side of the ball, a trio of Pro Bowl defensive backs were felled by injuries in Week 3. The Rams' cornerback tandem of Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters won't play together for at least another couple months. Their division rivals in San Francisco lost not only free-agent pickup Jerick McKinnon to a torn ACL, but also Richard Sherman to a calf strain that will sideline the superstar cover man for the next few weeks.

While the offseason market's show ponies have underwhelmed early in the race, afterthought acquisitions have jumped out to impressive starts. The list of leftover luminaries starts with Adrian Peterson, a Cardinals castoff casually discarded as damaged goods despite ampleevidenceto the contrary on his 2017 game film.

1) Adrian Peterson, running back, Washington Redskins

If not for second-round pick Derrius Guice's preseason ACL tear, the NFL's fifth-leading rusher might still be waiting for a call. Signed to a veteran-minimum contract in late August after Guice went down, Peterson wasted no time unseating Rob Kelley and establishing himself as the focal point of his new offense. If it seems like the 33-year-old still possesses the trademark jump-cuts and explosive gallop of a much younger man, that's because it's true. Peterson is running like the vintage version of himself, as evidenced by his 87 yards in the first half of last week's victory -- his best first-half output since his 2012 MVP season.

Going back to his stint with Arizona last year, Peterson has rushed for 120 or more yards in three of his last nine starts. Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott is the only other active running back who can make the same claim.

2) Robert Quinn, defensive end, Miami Dolphins

When the Rams decided to reallocate resources from edge rusher to cornerback, Quinn was shipped to South Beach for a fourth-round pick and a swap of sixth-rounders. The former All-Pro has been a revelation in Miami, following a promising preseason with a strong September. Pairing with Cameron Wake to comprise an edge-rushing tag team boasting a combined 156.5 career sacks, Quinn is keying a surprisingly stout Dolphins defense that ranks third in Football Outsiders' efficiency rating.

3) Jon Bostic, linebacker, Pittsburgh Steelers

It's not Bostic's fault that the Steelers' defense is allowing nearly 30 points per game since losing sideline-to-sideline playmaker Ryan Shazier to a spinal injury last December. Carrying a cap hit of just $1.5 million, Bostic has pulled off a convincing Shazier impersonation, leading the team in tackles as a run-stuffer while adding a pair of sacks and a tipped pass that led to Mike Hilton's red-zone interception Monday night.

4) Kenny Vaccaro, safety, Tennessee Titans

Signed as a backup plan when strong safety Johnathan Cyprien went down with a torn ACL early in training camp, Vaccaro has proven to be an upgrade in the back end. The Titans' third-leading tackler has played every snap for a defense that ranks fourth in points per game and didn't allow a single explosive play at Jacksonville in Week 3.

5) John Brown, wide receiver, Baltimore Ravens

Signed off the scrap heap as a reclamation project after injuries sabotaged his last two seasons in Arizona, Brown has been a godsend on a one-year, $5 million contract. He's generated at least 80 yards or a touchdown in all three games this month, bringing the downfield strike back to Baltimore. He and reliable possession receiver Michael Crabtree have helped a rejuvenated Joe Flacco get off to his best start since the 2012 Super Bowl season.

6) Trent Brown, left tackle, New England Patriots

When the Giants lured Nate Solder to the Big Apple with the richest offensive-line contract in football, the Patriots were forced to get creative on Tom Brady's blind side. They agreed to move down 48 spots in the middle rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft in exchange for San Francisco's right tackle, a mountain of a man (6-foot-8 and 380 pounds) coming off shoulder surgery. Earning less than $2 million in the final year of his rookie contract, Brown is only a slight downgrade at a fraction of Solder's cost.

7) Benson Mayowa, defensive end, Arizona Cardinals

Arizona's offense might be a blatant mess, but the defense has witnessed surprising early-season performances from Mayowa, former first-round bust Robert Nkemdiche and journeyman linebacker Josh Bynes. Signed on the cheap for $1.35 million after notching seven sacks over the past two seasons as a rotational pass rusher in Dallas, Mayowa hit Alex Smith three times in the opener and took Jared Goff down twice in Week 2. After starting just 11 games across five NFL seasons, Mayowa is outplaying 2017 Defensive Player of the Year candidate Chandler Jones in Steve Wilks' new 4-3 defense.

8) Leon Hall, defensive back, Oakland Raiders

Jordy Nelson welcomed Dolphins rookie Minkah Fitzpatrick to the NFL with a vintage performance last week, but his signing didn't exactly fly under the radar in Oakland. When the Raiders reunited Hall with former Bengals coordinator Paul Guenther in late March, the move barely made a ripple. Drifting in and out of the league over the past couple of years, Hall was viewed as a past-his-prime veteran with little left in the tank. Nobody expected him to emerge as the key cog in a revamped secondary no longer operating as a league-wide laughingstock.

9) Sam Shields, cornerback, Los Angeles Rams

Who can blame pundits for ignoring Shields in offseason assessments of the Rams' star-studded shopping spree? A Pro Bowl selection earlier in his career with the Packers, Shields sat out the 2017 season to recover from a severe concussion sustained in the 2016 opener. He hadn't stepped foot on an NFL field in two years when he took his first snap in Los Angeles. Playing a part-time role, Shields intercepted a Sam Bradford pass in Week 2 and deflected a potential touchdown in last week's win over the Chargers. Now that ballyhooed corners Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters are battling injuries, Shields will be tasked with graduating from afterthought insurance policy to sticky cover man with elite ball skills.

10) Chris Clark, left tackle, Carolina Panthers

In case of emergency, dial Clark, swing-tackle for hire. A fill-in starter for the Broncos and Texans for the bulk of this decade, Clark was sitting on his couch waiting to turn 33 years old when the desperate Panthers convinced him to stand guard on Cam Newton's blind side until their injured starters return on some hazy future date. Clark won't win any awards for his pass protection against the Bengals' front seven, but he's been serviceable enough to play every snap for an offense that has scored 55 points over the past two weeks. It's a credit to offensive line coach John Matsko that Clark didn't even get a chance to have his body shoved in August, yet still paved the way for Christian McCaffrey's career-high 184 rushing yards in Week 3.

MORE BARGAIN-BIN PICKUPS:Damarious Randall, safety, Cleveland Browns; Henry Anderson, defensive end, New York Jets; Tavon Austin, wide receiver, Dallas Cowboys; Aaron Lynch, edge rusher, Chicago Bears; Alfred Morris, running back, San Francisco 49ers; Jared Veldheer, right tackle, Denver Broncos; Tom Compton, left guard, Minnesota Vikings.

Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.

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