When Al Davis drafted Darren McFadden from Arkansas in 2008, it drew a mixed reaction. On the one hand, the Raiders already had a backfield combination of 1,000-yard rusher Justin Fargas and Louisville stud Michael Bush. There were certainly other areas where the Raiders could use help. On the other hand, McFadden was beastly at Arkansas and probably the most talented skill player to come out of that draft. Some would say, that high in the draft, you take the best available player.
McFadden finished second in the voting for the Heisman Trophy in his 2007 sophomore season as a Razorbacks’ running back. He was a good sized and sleek kid who almost looked like a wide receiver in the backfield, but boy if he couldn’t run. McFadden ran over, around, and through people at Arkansas and drew comparisons to Adrian “All-Day” Peterson and USC’s shifty Heisman halfback, Reggie Bush.
Since he was drafted in 2008, Run DMC has added some bulk to his frame. The Raiders still officially have him listed at his college weight, but if you compare his college tape to last year’s tape, you can notice a significant difference in his upper body. The thing I notice when I watch the highlights from last year is how healthy he ran. McFadden was beaten down by injuries over his first two seasons that forced him to lose important reps in practice as well as game time as he was only able to start 12 of a possible 25 games. His ailments from the prior two seasons were gone last year as he finished runs and often laid the wood on defenders.
Last year McFadden missed two games with a hamstring injury, but when he came back, he lit the NFL up. In the two games following his return, he totaled 331 yards on 41 touches. That’s an average 8.07 yards per touch average. He also scored four of his ten touchdowns the first week of his return against the Broncos in Denver.
The NFL has had some very versatile and dangerous halfbacks over the years. I think about guys like Barry Sanders, Marshall Faulk, Jim Brown, Walter Payton. I wonder if one day Darren McFadden could be mentioned alongside this company. Hue Jackson says McFadden has only scratched the surface of what he can do. But I can’t believe that is true. Certainly we saw at least 80 percent of what he can do... right?
The talent around him gives him more opportunity to play at a high level. This is not the type of offense where you can just focus on one guy. Even fullback Marcel Reece can handle running an 80 yard touchdown from time to time. That’s one thing the Raiders have been able to do is stockpile some good talent. They are young, too – and very fast.
I think Darren McFadden has the potential to be the next great tailback in the NFL. His age, size, speed, agility, and power combination are unmatched even at this level by other tailbacks. Some are shifty like Maurice Jones-Drew and Reggie Bush. Some have a lot of power and high end speed like Arian Foster and Peterson, and some are so quick with their feet like Jamaal Charles and Chris Johnson. Darren McFadden in 2010 was some sick combination of all of that. On top of that, he’s got good enough hands to make catches like a wideout and has also been known to throw the football into the end zone when in the red zone.
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