Why Darren McFadden Can Be the NFL's Next Great Runningback

Bleacher ReportSenior Analyst IOctober 23, 2009

Here is a question that has bothered me: Does Raider runningback, Darren McFadden, have what it takes to be the next great runningback?

When the Raiders selected McFadden with the fourth overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, scouts had compared McFadden to Marshall Faulk.

In this era of the NFL (1983-present), that is about the highest honor a running back can get with few exceptions.

McFadden showed Raider fans a glimpse of his potential against the Kansas City Chiefs in Arrowhead last year, but unfortunately, McFadden has been riddled with injuries ever since, with lacklustre play when he has had the chance.

In fact, Justin Fargas and Michael Bush have been more reliable than McFadden. The problem is that McFadden has the expectation to be a Hall of Fame level running back, not just a backup.

I hope I did not detract from what Bush and Fargas have done for the Raiders, but I think it is undeniable that the Raiders selected McFadden, when they had Bush and Fargas, because the Raiders believed that McFadden had the unique ability to be the next LaDainian Tomlinson or Adrian Peterson.

Now that Peterson has declared that he wants all the records, I would like to see a duel between McFadden and Peterson chase the records and title of America's next top runningback.

That is hard to do when you are sidelined by injuries, and what can one do about injuries? Are injuries fully outside of a football player's control? Since I do believe that injuries often result from carelessness, lack of focus, or ignorance, I do believe that many injuries in sports result from a player's decision, stubbornness, or lack of preparation.

In an extreme case, baseball player Aaron Rowand once broke his nose when he crashed into the fence to prevent a home run.

In some cases, the decision is admirable. You stop a big play, you take a bullet, and you lay down your life.

The majority of time however, I think injuries in sports result from poor technique and an unwillingness to modify your technique because it worked in college. McFadden has all the physical tools to succeed in the pros, but I think he has been riddled with injuries because he has been reticent to adapt his techniques, and thus gets hurt.

Bad footing, running at the wrong angle on a cut, running into a defender at one angle as opposed to a different angle, poor weight shifting, or poor leverage against the opponent on a block are all examples of what can lead to an injury for a running-back.

Way back when in 2002, when I started losing weight, I decided that a fun exercise would be to chase my dog and see if I could keep pace with him. A dog can be a fast son of a gun, so it requires good technique to keep pace with a dog without getting hurt.

Also, I spent nearly two years at The Home Depot. When I started in Watsonville, CA I worked like a fiend, closing two departments in a high-volume store, with little help from the person before my shift.

Often times, I would come home incredibly sore. I loved it. Yet, never once did I hurt my back or incur an injury, because of technique. I always lifted with my legs or focused the weight on the lower body, moved the upper legs, staggered my stances, or moved my anterior torso.

Yet, many people at The Home Depot were forced to watch endless safety videos to prevent injury, and many people often had back-injuries that resulted from lifting.

I am convinced that McFadden's issues are mostly technique and a lack of work ethic with the Raiders. I however, expect that McFadden will rise to the level of the next great running back and that he cannot do that by sheer will. He has to want it enough to prepare like a fiend.

As Steve Young said of Jerry Rice, Rice was the rare combination of talent and ethic. Some players work hard without talent. Talented players blow off work. Yet, the great players have talent and work ethic.

That is what I expect from McFadden.