Darren McFadden took his typical spot on the field Nov. 25 in Cincinnati—on the sideline. Oakland’s oft-injured running back has not suited up since his side’s 42-32 setback against Tampa Bay on Nov. 4. McFadden has been out since then with a high-ankle sprain but is expected to return Sunday against Cleveland. Nobody is sure how productive McFadden will be for the beleaguered Raiders, or if he’ll even make it through the contest. That’s always the problem with McFadden, who is on the verge of becoming a bust.
When healthy McFadden—agile, powerful and skillful—is one of the league’s most dynamic backs. Unfortunately the 2008 fourth overall selection’s appearances on the injury report have far outnumbered his contributions on the field.
Injuries, both nagging and season ending, have handicapped McFadden’s abilities and severely diminished his production. Five seasons in, McFadden has only topped 1,000 yards once, gaining 1,157 yards while scoring 10 combined touchdowns in 2010—the only truly productive campaign of his career.
On the rare occasions this season when McFadden has been able to suit up, his productivity has left the Raiders wanting. He’s averaging a meager 3.3 yards-per-carry and has only eclipsed the century mark twice, going for 113 and 114 yards respectively in wins against Pittsburgh and Kansas City.
Adding insult to injury (no pun intended) is the number of quality backs, including a few franchise players, who came off the board following McFadden. Every team is guilty of draft-day mistakes, but this one is glaring. Oakland would surely rather have Ray Rice, Chris Johnson, Jonathan Stewart or Matt Forte taking handoffs than McFadden.
What truly makes McFadden a bust isn’t his pedestrian history but rather his bleak future. His inability to exhibit the skill to be a reliable option for a contending outfit—something Oakland hasn’t been in a decade—only compounds the impact of his frequent absences and cements his status, as of now, as a bust.