If you drafted Darren McFadden, you likely did so begrudgingly, knowing that he is an injury-prone running back on an awful team with, for all intents and purposes, a rookie quarterback. So here we are, three weeks in, and while McFadden likely ranks a top ten back in your league, what has changed?
He has displayed some flashes of elite talent (nothing new), but he is still a health risk and still has very little running room to work with. So unless you watched Monday Night Football this past week and are buying McFadden’s passing ability as a viable addition to his fantasy arsenal, I’m selling DMC to the highest bidder.
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Yes, Terrelle Pryor has been better than most thought he’d be and he does have the potential to take some of the pressure off of McFadden. That being said, the concussion that he suffered against the Denver Broncos on Monday not only could keep him out of some action, but it will also serve as a wake-up call to the Oakland Raiders coaching staff about putting their potential franchise quarterback in harm’s way. Assuming that Pryor comes back from this injury less apt to run around and punish defenses with his legs, McFadden once again becomes the marked man and will see eight man fronts.
Even with Pryor playing at a high level, the Raiders have been unable to block anybody at all. Why has Pryor been so good on the run? Because he’s been on the run for what seems like 90 percent of his drop backs this season, making him statistically more likely to produce the occasional jaw dropping play. The run blocking has been even worse, something that McFadden’s 3.9 yards per carry (including a wonderful 12-carry, nine-yard performance against the Broncos) doesn’t fully illustrate. Subtract four long carries he had against the lone team in the NFL that might have less talent (Jacksonville Jaguars) than the Raiders, and this “top ten back” has managed just 78 yards on 44 carries (1.77 yards per carry). For reference sake, Peyton Manning averages 1.66 yards per carry for his career.
The worst news of all for McFadden owners is that this may be as good as it is going to get. Pryor is on pace for nearly 4,400 total yards this season and McFadden is on pace to record a career high in carries, two things that seem very unlikely to happen. If Pryor begins to struggle, and most youngsters on bad teams do, the reps for McFadden will increase while the running room will decrease. He has never played more than 13 games in a season, and while I’m not a doctor, running into a brick wall at the line of scrimmage is a funny way to stay healthy. If he doesn’t get hurt, his fantasy owners are still likely to feel buyer’s remorse when the fantasy production counts the most. Five of the Raiders’ last seven meaningful fantasy games are on the road, and as disappointing as DMC’s total numbers have been over the past two seasons, things get even worse away from Oakland. Since the beginning of 2011, he has totaled 660 rushing yards on 203 road carries (3.25 ypc) as compared to 847 yards on 174 attempts (4.87 ypc) at home over that same stretch.
His two late garbage time touchdowns against the Broncos bought you an extra week to sell high on this fantasy fraud; don’t pass up the opportunity.