Drafting Darren McFadden in fantasy football reminds me of Al Pacino’s quote in the Godfather III: ” Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.”
Based off of McFadden’s success with the Arkansas Razorbacks, it would have appeared that he was destined for fantasy glory. With 4,590 rushing yards, 41 rushing touchdowns and seven passing touchdowns between 2005 to 2007, McFadden was a one-man offensive powerhouse. The one concern with the college sensation was his lack of involvement in the receiving game with only 365 receiving yards in three seasons, but McFadden was still too overly talented not to be drafted in fantasy football.
To put it simply, McFadden did not meet the expectations of fantasy owners in his first two seasons. Only playing in 25 games, he rushed for 856 yards, scored five rushing touchdowns and had 530 receiving yards. The positive note in this time frame for McFadden was the fact that his receiving totals greatly increased from his college days. The bad news was that many owners spent an early-round pick on him.
Just when everyone had seemed to have given up on the former Razorback, McFadden finally had his break-out season. In only 13 games, McFadden rushed for 1,157 yards, scored seven rushing touchdowns, totaled 507 receiving yards and caught three touchdown passes in 2010. He had finally become the NFL star that everyone had projected him to be.
Sadly, this dominant performance was never repeated. McFadden hasn’t been able to play in more than 13 games since 2010, and he has not rushed for more than 800 yards or scored more than five rushing touchdowns in the past three seasons.
So with his injury history and disappointing seasons, why should anyone draft McFadden?
He has proven that he can be a threat in the receiving game. Just like how Andy Reid was able to protect injury-prone Jamaal Charles in the 2013 season by using him more in the passing game, the right setup for McFadden could help him to avoid getting hurt and allow him to be productive. Since McFadden is a free agent, he will have a chip on his shoulder that could motivate him to a top-ten running back performance if he signs with a new team.
McFadden was normally drafted in the fourth round in a twelve-team draft in 2013, but I have a feeling that you can pick him up in the sixth or seventh round in 2014. Statistics are stacked against him, but he could also be the biggest sleeper of the year.
Pay attention to free agency over the next few weeks and find out which offensive system McFadden finds himself a part of. If he stays with the Oakland Raiders, avoid drafting him. If McFadden finds himself as the starting running back of a new team, draft him with high hopes but subdued expectations.