Ding! Round two.
We continue the Fantasy Feud series with two running backs. One continues to disappoint fantasy owners and never live up to his potential, while the other is set to embark on his first chapter as a starting running back in this league. Darren McFadden clearly has all the talent in the world, but just hasn’t been able to stay on the field. And if what we have seen in recent stints of Chris Ivory is any indication of his future, then this guy will be very fantasy relevant. I currently have these guys ranked neck and neck, so this should be a good one.
Making the case for McFadden
Perhaps it’s time to change his name from Run-DMC to hobble-DMC? Okay, okay. That was weak, but it was also accurate. It’s no secret that McFadden has had durability issues throughout his pro career, having already missed 23 games. It’s honestly frustrating because this guy is so insanely talented. He has 4.3 40-time speed, can catch the ball out of the backfield and a strong stiffarm. Of course, the injuries have been unfortunate, but even when he has been on the field, the light just hasn’t switched on for the 25-year old back. He’s averaging just 4.3 yards per carry in five seasons and just hasn’t showed terrific vision at all. McFadden was awful in 12 games last year, rushing for just 58.9 yards per contest and a career low 3.3 yards per carry. It was almost ugly to watch him run the football, unlike the excitement we saw out of him at Arkansas. However, why can’t I walk away? At 25-years old, there is still upside here. First, out with the zone-blocking scheme. Last year, McFadden really struggled to find holes, as his lineman looked confused at times. New offensive coordinator Greg Olson will scratch that out of the playbook and implement the power-running scheme. McFadden must have had a mile-long grin when he heard this news. He averaged 5.3 yards per carry over 2010 and 11, the last time he ran out of this scheme. This will allow him to just run straight down defenses throats, rather than waiting for holes to open (McFadden wasn’t patient). With below average weapons outside of McFadden in that offense, I expect Oakland to pound the rock, as well as involving Run-DMC in the passing game quite a lot.
Making the case for Ivory
A universal sleeper in the fantasy community, Ivory became fantasy relevant the second he was traded to the Jets. Shonn Greene is gone, Mike Goodson is playing with drugs and guns, so Ivory is slated to be the featured back in New York. It’s an exciting time to see what Ivory can do as the lead guy after being underutilized in New Orleans. On a team with a bunch of average to below average backs, Ivory remained the number four option. Still, in limited time, he averaged an impressive 5.1 yards per carry. On 256 carries, he has posted 33 carries that were 10 yards or more. He has shown flashes of power and breakaway speed, an enticing combination when considering fantasy. Think about this. In 2012, Greene finished inside the top-20 among fantasy runners (15) just because of opportunity. If you look at his numbers, he was awful, averaging 3.9 yards per carry and rushed for just over 1,000 yards. Well, Ivory is by far the more talented player, so why can’t he finish inside that range either? To be fair, Ivory hasn’t been sipping out of the fountain of health. He has dealt with concussion, hamstring and foot issues in the past. The Jets offense clearly isn’t too impressive either, though they do have a solid run-blocking offensive line. Expect them to feed him at will because, quite frankly, that offense stinks.
Both of these guys are in poor situations, but at the end of the day, they have opportunity. That’s one of the most important aspects in terms of fantasy. If I had to choose one for my fantasy team, call me crazy, but I’ll stick with McFadden for just one more season. I still believe he is the better all around, more versatile back and there isn’t a big enough sample size to know if Ivory can carry the load or not. In PPR formats, I’d definitely favor McFadden as well (158 career catches). McFadden must be that ex-girlfriend that I just keep coming back to for some odd reason. The name? Is it sexy? Well, he was a former top-five overall draft pick. Alright, I’ll give you one more year, Darren. But that doesn’t mean I’ll be one bit surprised if Ivory outperforms you in 2013.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.