Darren McFadden vs. Jamaal Charles: Which Running Back Is the Best in AFC West?

Steven ElonichCorrespondent IApril 15, 2011

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 12:  Darren McFadden #20 of the Oakland Raiders breaks the tackle of Sean Considine #37 of the Jacksonville Jaguars during the game at EverBank Field on December 12, 2010 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

The rivalry between the Oakland Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs is simply less than a friendship. No matter what section of football you turn to, there will be an argument between these two franchises.

For example, which team is better? The Chiefs won the division last year, but Oakland swept the series.

But this argument is a bit more specific. Which running back is the better choice: Jamaal Charles of Kansas City or Darren McFadden of Oakland?

There are a few strikingly similar characteristics between the two. Both will have been in the league for four years this coming season, were only seven carries away from having the same number last year, even though McFadden missed three games, and play in the AFC West.

McFadden is listed as 6'2" and weighs in at 210 pounds. He carried the ball 223 times last season for 1,157 yards, which turns out to be a very respectable 5.2 yards per carry. He found the end zone from the ground game seven times in 2010. He fumbled three times, losing two of them.

Michael Bush took 158 handoffs for the Raiders as well, which could have added to McFadden's stats.

From a receiving standpoint, the young Oakland back caught the ball 47 times for 507 yards while garnering three touchdowns last season. He also had one fumble lost on that side of the ball.

Charles is 5'11" and a pound short of 200, making him only 11 pounds lighter than McFadden while giving up three inches. He had a record-breaking performance during his breakout 2010 season. Charles was only .02 yards per carry away from being able to take credit for having the best YPC of all time.

He finished with 230 carries for 1,467 yards, which is a 6.4 YPC, and five touchdowns. He coughed up the ball twice, losing one to the opponent.

Thomas Jones was listed as the starter for much of the year, carrying the ball more often than Charles. Jones took the ball 245 times and quite frequently got the ball in the red zone, very similar to how Michael Bush did when close to scoring for Oakland.

In the passing game, Charles had 45 receptions for 468 yards and, like McFadden, also had three touchdowns. He even had one fumble lost from the receiving side of things.

Pass blocking is also an important aspect in the debate, but it's much more difficult than looking at stats to depict. Oakland may have given up more sacks, but that is nearly irrelevant to Charles and McFadden. Both hold their own against blitzing defensive backs in order to give their quarterback enough time to get rid of the ball.

But after all of that, which one is better? The stats say Charles, but Raider fans argue that he is too small to continue to be the featured back for the Chiefs. Looking at it more carefully, is that true?

As I mentioned earlier, Charles is listed as only 11 pounds lighter than McFadden, even though the Oakland back is three inches taller. Raider fans say how McFadden is a muscle powerhouse, but Charles would relatively be just as strong, just shorter. That argument seems void. Most running backs lose their legs after five years of carrying the load, so it's very possible that neither of these backs continues deep into the future.

"Deep into the future? McFadden hasn't had a healthy year yet!" a Chiefs fan may retaliate.

Yes, this is true. During the last three seasons, McFadden has missed 10 games, but not too many at a time. He's taken a few knocks but hasn't been sidelined for a very considerable amount of time. He may not be Brett Favre durable, but he's certainly not Clinton Portis.

Really, the only thing you can fall back on is the past. Charles has outgained McFadden by over 300 yards while only having seven more carries. Darren could have made up that yardage in the three games he missed, but he didn't. "Could have" is just another phrase for saying that something did not happen.

Even if that was true and he ran for over 310 yards those three games, he wouldn't have done it in the same number of carries as Charles, the third-round pick out of Texas. Anybody who assumes that McFadden would have had the same YPC as Charles is just fooling themselves.

Currently, Charles is the better back. He fumbles slightly less, has about a full yard difference in YPC and is only slightly behind in yards per reception. Both are fantastic backs, and by this time next year this argument could be completely flip-flopped, but as of April 15, 2011, Charles is just one step higher on the pedestal than McFadden.