With the fourth overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft, the Oakland Raiders selected Darren McFadden, running back from the University of Arkansas.
From a talent standpoint, the pick has worked out well. That is, McFadden has been productive when on the field. However, he hasn’t as much time on the field as he or the Raiders would have liked in the past few seasons. He has never played a full 16-game season in his career, and he struggled mightily last year, getting just 3.3 yards per carry.
It is decision time for the team that has invested heavily into this talented but injury-prone running back. With McFadden expressing his desire to return to the Raiders after his contract expires this offseason, it is now up to the Raiders to keep McFadden or let him go.
Reasons to re-sign him: The Oakland Raiders will not find a better running back talent-wise than McFadden. He runs with power and speed, he is difficult to bring down, he is a good receiver out of the backfield, and he is a good blocker. He is a talented, complete running back. Raiders fans have seen what he is able to do when he is healthy and in a system that fits him well.
In the 2010 season, McFadden earned himself 1,157 rushing yards and averaged 5.2 yards per carry. He even added 507 receiving yards to the rushing totals, giving him a season with 1,664 yards from scrimmage. That would be a great full season for any running back, and McFadden did it in just thirteen games.
Last year, the Raiders shifted away from the power-running scheme McFadden had so much success with in the two seasons before. It showed in his performance. He clearly was not comfortable in the zone blocking scheme, a system he struggled with early in his career. Now, the Raiders employ a power-running system.
All the success McFadden has had in his career has come in this system under Hue Jackson. This means that there is real potential that McFadden could get back to being the running back he was before last year.
Reasons to let him go: Is Darren McFadden made of glass? It is a valid question at this point in his career. He has missed at least three games in each of the five seasons he has been in the NFL, and even when he does play, he is very rarely fully healthy.
Even this preseason McFadden has been fighting a shoulder injury. What worries me about McFadden is that many of his injuries are unrelated to each other. It makes me think that the reason McFadden gets injured so often is the way he runs. He never stops trying to earn extra yards. He takes multiple hits each play trying to run through defenders instead of around them. Nobody will be able to change the way McFadden runs, making it seem plausible that he will never be healthy for an extended period of time.
The Verdict: If Darren McFadden wants to sign with the Oakland Raiders, they have to consider re-signing him. He has loads of talent and is a running back you want on your team. On the other hand, the Raiders shouldn’t shell out loads of money for someone that will be in a walking boot half the year.
The solution is simply to re-sign McFadden to a contract that isn’t a lot of money. Its a high-reward situation because of his ability. Sign him.