The Oakland Raiders will have many competitions to fill out roster spots as we approach the 2013 regular season. From quarterback to cornerback, offensive right tackle to defensive tackle, and just about everywhere in between, the Raiders are not yet sure who will start at many positions when the season begins.
The Raiders are set in stone at one skill position on offense at least, and that position is running back, where Darren McFadden will be the unquestioned starter. The Raiders made it clear that McFadden was the guy when they replaced Greg Knapp and his zone-blocking scheme with McFadden's preferred power-blocking scheme.
McFadden averages 5.3 yards per carry in the power scheme compared to 3.8 YPC in the zone scheme, including a career low 3.3 YPC last year.
Granted, the blocking scheme is also determined by the offensive linemen and their skill set as a unit, but ridding the franchise of Greg Knapp, again, is an endorsement of McFadden.
The question isn't whether or not McFadden will be the anchor of the offense. The question is if it's a wise decision to have the offense revolve around McFadden.
To some fans, McFadden is just an injury-prone player in a contract year. To others he is among the most explosive, dynamic players in the NFL.
The truth is that McFadden is a whole lot of both. He has never played more than 13 games in an NFL season and he is a free agent at the end of the season. However, in his limited amount of action, he can be the most productive running back in the NFL. In fact, he led the league in rushing yards after six weeks of the 2011 season before the seemingly inevitable injury occurred.
Is McFadden a reliable anchor for the Oakland Raiders?
Oakland's GM Reggie McKenzie is from the Green Bay Packers organization. It is an organization that drafts well and re-signs their own free agents to build an annual Super Bowl contender. With all due respect to other players, McFadden is the best player in Oakland to be in a contract year this season.
Therefore, it is highly likely that McKenzie will pull out all the stops to keep McFadden in silver and black. McKenzie has gone through two waves of releasing and trading overpaid veterans in Oakland since taking the job and McFadden has survived both purges.
Being a Bay Area guy, I like to compare McFadden to the NBA's Stephen Curry. Curry was also deemed injury-prone and was in a contract year when the Golden State Warriors gave him a four-year, $44 million contract last year. Curry is now leading the Warriors to the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
McFadden and Curry are different men playing different sports, but the similarities between the two stand out. Both men were deemed injury-prone players who can't be used as building blocks for a championship contender.
Curry proved the critics wrong and so can McFadden.