When the Oakland drafted Darren McFadden from Arkansas with the fourth overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft, it seemed to be a sure fire hit for the struggling Raiders. In only his second game in the NFL, at Arrowhead, McFadden rushed for 164 yards on 21 carries with a touchdown. It seemed as though Al Davis had struck gold, but all did not go as planned in Oakland.
After a mediocre rookie season, that was plagued by turf toe on both feet, Raiders fans expected big things out of the healthy second year back. After a lack luster four games, McFadden was on the sidelines with a knee injury. After missing four games he came back week nine against Kansas City, but other than a few wildcat snaps hasn't really done much.
But on Thanksgiving we saw a different look for McFadden. On a few plays McFadden lined up at wide out and had some success, including a under thrown incompletion that could have gone the distance had Gradkowski put a little more air underneath of it. This was the second game where he was used in the slot, the first being their Monday night opener against San Diego.
With the depth we have at running back it seems to me that McFadden could be the spark that our dead last passing game needs. Chaz Schilens is a very competent starter, but after him it looks pretty bleak.
The two rookies, who have started most of the games this year, have been sketchy at best. Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey have had a bad case of the drops all year and have not produced very much. Murphy has had a few big plays but has had some costly drops. Heyward-Bey caught his long overdue first touchdown last week, but he also took on off the chest that cost us the KC game.
If you compare McFadden to the two, they are quite similar physically. All three of them are 6'2 in the 210 pound range. Heyward-Bey's claim to fame is his 4.30 40 time at the combine. Darren McFadden was clocked at 4.33.
This year, despite only playing in seven games with limited action, McFadden has 14 receptions, which is five more than DHB and only five behind Murphy, who leads Oakland receivers with a mere 19 catches. For his career, he has 43 receptions which is more than any Raider receiver has for their career with the exception of Javon Walker who has been inactive almost all season.
After watching McFadden over the last two years it has become clear that he cannot run effectively between the tackles. He has also been prone to fumbling and going down on first contact. No one questions his play making ability, but he doesn't seem to have the leg strength or durability to be a starting NFL running back.
With that being said I think it is worth a shot to give McFadden a chance at wideout. He's doing us no good as a third-string running back.
It will definitely take a lot of work out of McFadden and the coaching staff. Changing positions is no easy task, but McFadden has all the physical tools necessary to do so. If he can learn the position I think he would be a much bigger threat to opposing defenses.
I'm not saying he will be the next Tim Brown, but with the success Fargas and Bush are having, wide receiver is where he is most valuable to the Raiders.