Heading into Week 3 of the 2013 season, running back Darren McFadden is …
It’s true. Of course, it’s only been two games, but fantasy owners must be happy to have a skilled guy like McFadden in their roster. He’s never played more than 13 games in a season, but when he is on the field, you’d be hard-pressed to find many back with a more complete skill-set in the league. During these first two contests, McFadden has been a strong fantasy back. He currently has 36 carries for 177 yards (6th in NFL) and a score, averaging a strong 4.9 yards per clip. Those numbers are good enough for McFadden to rank as the ninth-best fantasy running back according to Yahoo! leagues. In Week 2, he totaled 157 yards, which is the most he’s posted in a single game since Week 3 of the 2011 season. It was good to see McFadden run with some violence, and if he can get downhill, it’s so hard to bring him down. While many fantasy owners are likely trying to sell him high, as many expect him to get hurt sooner or later, could this be the year that McFadden stops teasing fantasy owners and has a productive season? Maybe, maybe not. But in 2013, McFadden may have something that he hasn’t had in years in Oakland.
A competent quarterback.
The presence of the exciting, mobile signal caller Terrelle Pryor may be the best thing to ever happen to the fantasy prospects of McFadden. Through the first two games, Pryor has already rushed for 162 yards, and opposing defenses need to dial in on his rushing ability. In year’s past, McFadden was the only game in town for the Raiders, but Pryor’s presence has certainly benefited McFadden’s early season success. The Raiders newly implemented read option seems to be a catalyst to McFadden’s strong play, and ESPN’s Christopher Harris took a look at it. In Week 1, Pryor only gave the ball to McFadden once during read option plays, in which he gained just two yards, However, during McFadden’s strong outing in Week 2, Pryor handed the ball of to McFadden five times in read option formations, resulting in 50 yards. Harris watched and analyzed the film from the game, and you can clearly see that the Jaguars defenders are hesitant for the slightest second, which gives McFadden enough time to explode through the hole. After the game, the Raiders quarterback explained why his running back had such a strong outing.
“That’s why D-Mac got 120-something yards,” Pryor told the media. “Our other running back busted a big run, and that’s why I believe (McFadden) had a great day. Guys were over-shifting big time on me. But hey, we got a win.”
So far this season, Oakland has designed 16 read option plays, and as long as Pryor is under center, that number will only continue to climb. Throughout his career with the Raiders, McFadden has been behind quarterbacks such as Carson Palmer, JaMarcus Russell and Jason Campbell. None of them exactly pose a threat to opposing defenses with their legs, and considering the receiving corp has never been anything more than pedestrian, defenses could just focus on shutting down McFadden.
Many people will look at McFadden’s strong start and credit it to two very favorable matchups. It’s definitely a fair assessment, and it gets much harder this week against a Broncos defense that is allowing just 2.0 yards per carry to running backs this season. The Raiders will more than likely be behind for the majority of this contest, which means more passes. However, McFadden is a strong pass-catcher, and has a solid seven grabs through two games. Denver’s defense has surrendered two receiving touchdowns to running backs this year, and McFadden caught a touchdown pass the last time he faced the Broncos. He is still worthy of a start as your RB2.
Whether or not you are buying into McFadden thus far is up to you, and I wouldn’t be opposed to trying to sell high on him. However, I truly think the presence of Pryor will work wonders for McFadden’s fantasy outlook, so I wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to holding onto him either.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.