With 1,830 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns under his belt, University of Arkansas running back Darren McFadden opted to enter the 2008 NFL Draft after his junior year. McFadden had an outstanding career with the Razorbacks. As a freshman, McFadden ran for 1,113 yards on just 176 carries. He also found the end zone 11 times. It was arguably the best freshman year in Arkansas history. In each year after that season, McFadden improved on his numbers. His sophomore year he ran the ball 284 times for 1,647 yards and 14 touchdowns. His '07 numbers are listed above, but he also had 21 receptions for 164 yards and one touchdown. His numbers placed him second in the voting for the Heisman Trophy in 2007.
Entering the offseason, McFadden was considered one of the draft's top prospects, and he has only increased his stock with some great times at the NFL Scouting Combine. In the 40-yard dash, McFadden ran blistering times of 4.27 and 4.33, although they were unofficial. He also has good size at 6-foot-1 and 211 pounds, though he could stand to add some muscle tone to his calves. With all the hype (most of it deserved), McFadden enters the draft as a top-10 pick and, barring a major surprise, will be the first running back selected.
One of the greatest skills McFadden has is his versatility. In high school he played a lot at quarterback and can still throw the ball well. This could give whichever team drafts him the chance to incorporate more trick plays into their offense. His speed and athleticism should also make him a great playmaker at the next level.
His early numbers at the combine have also added to the hype. McFadden appears to be the best athlete in this draft and once again backed that up by putting on a show at Arkansas' Pro Day, which included him reportedly posting a 4.05 20-yard shuttle time - faster than any running back at the combine. He ran the ball with Arkansas and finished fourth in the nation in rushing yards last year. He has the kind of breakaway speed that teams love as he can create separation. He is a solid receiver out of the backfield and a great blocker, which is often one of the toughest things to teach rookie running backs. Whoever drafts him should be able to use him on third downs, rather than bring him out as a liability, because of this. He is also a tough runner to bring down as more than one defender was needed to tackle him on more than a third of his non-touchdown rushing plays. In short, he is considered the elite running back prospect in this draft.
As noted earlier, McFadden offsets a chiseled upper body with suspect lower-body strength. That uneven distribution makes him a far less effective runner between the tackles and hurts his ability to move the pile. He also mustered a disappointing 13 reps at 225 pounds during Arkansas' Pro Day, which creates some concern about his functional upper-body strength as well.
Fumbling was also a major issue for McFadden as the two-time Doak Walker Award winner put the ball on the ground 15 times as a senior, losing five of them. He needs to do a better job of securing the ball against his body to keep opposing defenders from ripping it out. There are lingering questions about his patience and vision, too, as he has been known to make his move before a hole has developed.
McFadden has had some off-the-field issues during his time at Arkansas, including a 2006 fight that required toe surgery and an incident where he was handcuffed at a bar this past January, although he was not charged with anything. The NCAA is also investigating claims that McFadden received a Cadillac Escalade from an agent, although this would have only affected his eligibility in the Cotton Bowl last January. Even if none of the incidents have resulted in any significant charges, they are still flags that have been raised about his character.
Expected Draft Placement
McFadden could go as high as first overall if the long-rumored deal between the Miami Dolphins and Dallas Cowboys actually comes to fruition, but that seems unlikely at this point. A more likely scenario has McFadden being the fourth overall pick by the Oakland Raiders. He would bring to that team the kind of offensive potential that owner Al Davis loves. However, the team has recently re-signed running back Justin Fargas and could look to fill needs on the defensive side of the ball. If he does drop past them, expect the New York Jets to pick him up at the sixth spot. Jets running back Thomas Jones is a decent player, but McFadden's big-play potential would likely be a hit in the Big Apple. Wherever he goes, don't expect him to fall outside of the top 10 picks.
About Bryce McRae
Bryce McRae is a Managing Editor with KFFL and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1999. He joined KFFL as a volunteer writer in March 2005 before becoming a Hot off the Wire Analyst in March 2006. He began working in his current capacity in September 2008. His work has appeared on fantasy sports sites such as Yahoo! and CBS Sportsline as well as in print. He graduated from the University of British Columbia in 2008 with a B.A. in History and U.S. Studies.
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