Drafted out of Arkansas with the fourth overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft, the former two-time Doak Walker award winner, and Heisman runner-up, has yet to experience the same success with the Raiders, due to a variety of stumbling blocks.
McFadden’s 2009 campaign was hampered by nagging injuries, causing him to miss four games, and see very limited action in several others.
In the games he did play in, he produced little to no fantasy value for his owners, registering double-digit carries only four times, and failing to rush for 100 yards in any single game.
The abysmal state of Oakland’s passing game can be seen as a good thing or a bad thing for McFadden's (or any other Oakland running back) value, depending on your point of view. On one hand, the Raiders should and will continue to rely on their running game to move the ball, giving McFadden and the other backs plenty of opportunities.
Further, if the Raiders continue to go with JaMarcus Russell who seems able to complete only the simplest of passes, and sometimes not even that, then D-Mac figures to be an important part of the passing game. Expect plenty of screens to him, trying to utilize his speed to create big plays.
However, the flip side of that coin is the fact that without the threat of a vertical passing game, opposing defenses can load up against the run, reducing YPC and stalling drives.
Finally, if the Raiders somehow continue with JaMarcus Russell at QB, even with a simplistic game plan, Russell is still a turnover waiting to happen, greatly reducing McFadden’s touchdown potential.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle to McFadden reaching fantasy glory is the timeshare that he is going to continue engaging in with Michael Bush.
Bush is a hulk of a back, tipping the scales at 245 lbs, who can wear down and punish defenses, but he has lost some respect from Tom Cable and the rest of the coaching staff, for allegedly being “soft," and taking himself out of games, even when he was on a roll.
This leaves McFadden, who is certainly the more dynamic of the two backs, who has the size, 6’2” 210 lbs, to beat down defenses, as well as the elusiveness and speed to break the play outside for big gains.
Although we haven’t seen his great success in college translate into the NFL yet, McFadden is the only real game-breaking threat in an otherwise anemic offense.
One last point in favor of McFadden. Never count out the ego of Al Davis to feature, or force Cable to feature Darren McFadden over Bush, simply because he expended a first round pick on him, as opposed to a fourth rounder on Bush.
If we were talking about any other NFL team, I would say that McFadden shouldn’t be used as anything more than a spot or emergency starter, but this isn’t any ordinary team; this is the Raiders, where as we’ve learned with the Kiffin debacle, and the JaMarcus Russell experiment, anything and everything is possible.
All things considered, McFadden should still be avoided in all redraft leagues next season (except for maybe an occasional flex play in the deepest of leagues).
In keeper/dynasty leagues, I think he possesses some value, and if he becomes the feature back, he has the size, durability, and skill set to be a very good NFL tailback.
Still, don’t expect any drastic increase in future value, as he is stuck in the third year of a six-year contract with the Raiders. Any illusions of him becoming a fantasy RB1 anytime soon are just that.
Keep an eye on him, and monitor him, but avoid unless you are extremely desperate in 2010.
Written by Marc Tokushige
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