Oakland Raiders Draft: Why I Was Wrong About Darren McFadden

Max IasconeSenior Analyst IMay 15, 2008

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about the NFL draft, and in said article, I mentioned the Oakland Raiders as one of the three teams who, in my view, had the worst draft classes.

For the most part, my assertion was met with good natured, but rather pronounced disagreement from those who bothered to respond to it.

My rationale revolved around two key points. One, Oakland was already stacked at running back so picking another one would be superfluous, especially if said running back was taken with a top five pick.

Two, Darren McFadden's ability to be an every down running back in the NFL is quite questionable due to his slight frame. I also took issue with McFadden's 15 fumbles during his last college season, but a more thorough look at McFadden's stats reveals that 10 of his 15 fumbles took place while he was playing quarterback or returning kicks.

Due to the fact that McFadden averaged a paltry 19.8 yards per kick return during his last college season, it is pretty safe to say that we won't be seeing him on special teams come October.

More to the point, a few weeks after my writing, solid veteran Dominic Rhodes was released by the Raiders, leaving the team with incumbent starter Justin Fargas, and unproven injury risk Michael Bush to fill in the gaps.

For the record, I happen to think that Bush will be an absolute stud for whatever team he ends up with (he could be traded a la Matt Schaub) but I can see the rationale behind the Raiders going with McFadden for the simple reason that they don't have a sure future at the running back position.

Aside from Bush, all the Raiders have at running back (besides D-Mac and soon to be ex-Raider Lamont Jordan) is current starter Justin Fargas, who, despite an impressive1,009 yards over 9 starts, is still not a long term answer at running back in Oakland.

Furthermore, a cursory look at his game by game statistics reveals that he accrued a whopping 565 of his 1,009 yards on the ground against Miami, Denver, Kansas City, and Houston, whose run defenses were ranked 32nd, 30th, 28th, and 19th in the league respectively. 92 more yards came in games that he did not start in.

With those games against lesser competition factored out, Fargasran for 352 yards in his other five starts. This is not to say that Fargas' best games do not count, but the lack of consistency that is apparent from his stat sheet reveals that Fargas isn't consistent enough to be a full time NFL starter.

Frankly, Fargas' sheer heart and determination give me tremendous respect and admiration for the guy as a player, but I just can't say that I would be comfortable with him as the starter on my team.

Another thing, McFadden may not have the power and versatility (as a runner) to carry the load immediately, but Fargas and Bush can take at least some of the burden off of McFadden's shoulders for the time being.   

McFadden may not have the ideal frame for the NFL at 6-foot-two, 211 pounds, but his height gives him the leeway to bulk up a little bit without taking a page from Calais Campbell's playbook.

However, my biggest beef with the McFadden pick at the time that it was made was the fact that Oakland needed a lot of help at defensive tackle, and blue chip prospects Sedrick Ellis and Glenn Dorsey were there for the taking.

Oakland's current rotation at defensive tackle consists of the unproven Tommy Kelly, the average Gerard Warren, disappointing former Giant William Joseph, and of course Terdell Sands (need I say more?)

Kelly has the potential to be a good 3-technique pass rusher for the Raiders, provided he lives up to Warren Sapp's characterization of his abilities. However, Warren is a stopgap at best, and expecting Joseph to find himself in Oakland is very wishful thinking.

That said, Oakland's real troubles lie in their run defense, ranked 31st in the NFL last season. Oakland has a couple of decent pass rushers in Derrick Burgess, Greg Spires, and Kelly if he lives up to his potential.

Dorsey and Ellis, the only defensive tackles worthy of the fourth pick, are 3-technique pass rushers, just like Kelly. Drafting another rusher after giving Tommy Kelly the biggest contract for a defensive tackle in NFL history would have been redundant.

The only other player worth taking at the fourth spot was maddeningly inconsistent Ohio State DE/OLB Vernon Gholston, whose tendencies to take games off was a red flag heading into draft day.

Another argument that I've heard against McFadden details similarities between the former Razorback and well known bust Reggie Bush. However, McFadden and Bush differ in the respect that McFadden is known to seek contact and has been lauded for his aggression and durability, despite his seemingly unimpressive physique.

McFadden's mean streak and ability to stay up after initial contact is also often overlooked by his detractors, including me at one point.

I think that my conclusion about Oakland's draft was hasty on my part, and although its pretty safe to say that few people care what I think, I still felt the need to re-evaluate my stance on this issue, as I owe it to myself to keep what little journalistic integrity I have as a blogger intact. (Take that Buzz Bissinger!)

However, I still maintain that Oakland made a mistake in passing up big, run stuffingdefensive tackles like Red Bryant, Ahtyba Rubin, Frank Okam or Carlton Powell in the later rounds in favor of workout warriors like Tyvon branch, Armon Shields, and Trevor Scott.

All in all, I still dislike where Oakland went later on in the draft, but McFadden was not a bad pick by any stretch of the imagination. Not only was he clearly the best player on the board, but the other available players did not fill pressing needs, with the possible exception of Gholston, who would've been a great replacement at linebacker for mediocre current starter Robert Thomas.