Vernon Gholston vs. Darren Mcfadden: Who Fits Oakland Best?
When evaluating incoming players, a team looks not only at performance and scouting, but also at how the player would fit the team's offensive or defensive philosophies. A run-first team might bypass a stud wide receiver prospect if an equally impressive lineman or running back is available.
Thus, I wanted to take a look at how two of the hottest names on Oakland mock draft projections would fit into our system.
McFadden is what the Raiders had hoped Justin Fargas would become: an explosive threat that can score from anywhere on the field. Unfortunately, Fargas lacks the shiftiness, vision, strength, and health to become an elite runner.
The 28-year-old Fargas has been plagued by injuries throughout his college and professional career. McFadden comes with a clean bill of health after playing in the very tough SEC.
What McFadden would bring to the Silver and Black table is the speed, vision, shiftiness, and strength to score from anywhere on the field. In the 10 years that I have been closely following college football, I have not seen a running back with the breakaway speed that McFadden has.
Furthermore, the 6-foot-2, 210 pound McFadden brings with him reliable hands that make him a dual threat unparalleled by any of Oakland's current runners. As a bonus, he also brings that "star" aura that Al Davis, the Raiders marketing department, and the NFL all love.
Scout.com isn't known for being pie-in-the-sky, yet the serious football scouting source states that McFadden is the "best RB to enter the draft in the past two decades...breaks secured tackles and finishes his runs...[and is] a difference maker in every sense of the word."
McFadden perfectly fits the Raiders' one-cut running scheme. He is a multi-purpose weapon that Lane Kiffin's offense is designed to implement—an offense featuring a heavy dose of runs, screens, and passes to the backs.
His ability would take pressure off JaMarcus Russell, give Russell another dependable weapon, and prolong drives that help keep the Raiders run defense fresh. McFadden and Bush would team up to give Oakland weapons at the running back position that the Silver and Black have lacked since Charlie Garner and Tyrone Wheatley were havocking their way into the playoffs.
Any warts? Of course, everyone has them.
His off-field issues have been discussed before, though they pale in comparison to some of the misbehaviors of other NFL players. McFadden admitted during the combine that he has two illegitimate children. He also was involved in a bar altercation in the middle of 2006. I just don't see either of these two events as red flags.
Overall, McFadden is meant to run in our one-cut zone-blocking system. He is tailor-made for a USC coach who loves running the ball and throwing it to the backs.
He would bring a buzz to Oakland that even top pick JaMarcus Russell could not. Do you pass on a possible almost probable superstar who gets 25 attempts a game to directly influence its outcome?
As much as I like Fargas and am excited about Bush, I will state that Fargas averaged just 3.5, 2.7, 3.8, and 3.4 yards per carry against the Bears', Vikings', Packers', and Colts' defenses respectively. He got fat against the Dolphins, Texans, Chiefs, and Broncos. Those were his 100-yard games. Just food for thought.
I wouldn't want fans pointing at last year's highly-ranked rushing attack and conclude that we're set for 2008. We saw how much that top-ranked 2006 defense that was returning all its starters helped us in 2007.
How does any team pass up a guy with Gholston's measureables and 2007 statistical output? Well, Gholston does seem like a boom or bust player with more bust potential than comparable defensive ends also coming out in this year's draft.
I'll get to those warts that explain why some teams should pass on him. But first, let's look at his strengths.
While Gholston might be getting the workout warrior label this month, he certainly backed it up at OSU with a ridiculously productive senior season. We know he can rush the passer, as attested by his 14 sacks in 2007 and 8.5 sacks in 2006.
Yet what Oakland needs is someone who can also play the run. Can Gholston? Scouting reports state that Gholston is a "terror in pursuit," "has an outstanding motor and excellent range," and does a solid overall job against the run.
The numbers validate the eyes. On runs directed at Gholston's side, opponents netted NEGATIVE 1.7 yards per rush.
Unfortunately, all that praise does not mean that Gholston will succeed at the NFL level. Gholston's private workouts have shown that his 260 pound frame may be an area of concern if your defense plans on having him line up as a 4-3 defensive end.
Scouts have mentioned that Gholston has a tough time disengaging from blockers. He may struggle against bigger NFL linemen when it comes to run defense. He is also a little stiff with his change of direction. Beyond this, the biggest problem seems to be the mental side of the game.
Gholston didn't start playing football until late in his high school career. He has gotten by on athletic ability ever since. At Ohio State, his jobs were to rush the passer and at times drop back into zone coverage. This is why he still needs to refine the parts of his game that separate workout warriors from successful players.
Gholston doesn't react to plays as quickly as you'd like. He doesn't use his hands well to control the action. He can get fooled on play-actions or have inside draws run on him.
I hate to say it, because it can often be a kiss of death with Oakland's unimpressive coaching, but Gholston seems to be a better athlete than football player—at least as it translates into the NFL level. He would be an ideal 3-4 OLB, but it doesn't look like Oakland will be making that transition.
For comparison purposes, Chris Long does not have the strength or speed that Gholston does, yet Long makes up for it with his instincts, play recognition ability, and overall feel for the game. This is why he is slated to be drafted above Gholston and, in my opinion, will have a much better all-around career than Gholston.
Gholston has more bust potential than Long and McFadden. I think he'll go out and get his sacks, but Chris Clemons could also do that last year—eight sacks with only eight starts. That wasn't the problem in Oakland. Run defense was.
Due to the question marks surrounding Gholston's ability to successfully play the run in a 4-3 defense, and because he lacks the elite off-the-ball burst of the Dwight Freeney's of the world, I would give the "who fits Oakland best?" edge to Darren McFadden.
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