This is the 43rd in a series of opinionated fantasy football columns that will be posted daily in July and August, providing fantasy owners with some insights to consider as they prepare for their drafts. You can get an in-depth preview of the upcoming fantasy football season with the purchase of the Yahoo! Sports / Pro Football Weekly Fantasy Football Guide 2010, available now in newsstands and bookstores, or online at PFWstore.com.
Aside from an occasional flash of brilliance, it has been a disappointing two seasons for Raiders RB Darren McFadden, who came into the league with high expectations as the fourth overall pick in the 2008 draft.
While other backs who were drafted after McFadden in '08 — Tennessee's Chris Johnson, Carolina's Jonathan Stewart, Baltimore's Ray Rice, Kansas City's Jamaal Charles and Pittsburgh's Rashard Mendenhall — have enjoyed great success and 1,000-yard seasons, McFadden has totaled 856 rushing yards in two seasons. Not only that, he is gaining just 3.9 yards per carry and has yet to produce a rush of more than 50 yards.
He has more fumbles (eight) than touchdowns (five).
That's not exactly what the Raiders envisioned when they selected him.
Injuries and inept personnel around him on offense have been part of the problem. Some have argued that head coach Tom Cable has underutilized the player who shined as a versatile, big-play threat at Arkansas during his impressive college career.
Heading into Year Three, McFadden is expected to share carries with Michael Bush and likely will get more touches than ever before, if he can stay healthy — he's expected to return to practice after sitting out Oakland's second preseason game with a hamstring injury. Should that make him a target for fantasy owners looking to cash in on a player who could deliver now that the hype has died down?
The Raiders' offense is in its best position to score at a competent rate since McFadden entered the league. There should be fewer turnovers and longer possessions with JaMarcus Russell gone and Jason Campbell set to take over under center. That doesn't hurt McFadden's fantasy potential.
Oakland still has issues on its offensive line, though, and Cable has to figure out the best situations in which to get McFadden involved.
Despite the possibility of missing out on him during a breakout season, passing on McFadden is worth the risk this year. He could be a decent fourth or fifth back in most fantasy leagues, but no one should be relying on him as an every-week contributor.
There will be certain matchups where he might work. It would appear that the Raiders have a favorable schedule to run against, with two games apiece against the Broncos, Chiefs and Chargers, and contests vs. the Colts, Rams and Seahawks.
None of those teams finished higher than 15th vs. the run last season, but it's a dangerous move for fantasy owners to use last year's run-defense rankings to try to project what will happen in 2010.
Despite his struggles, McFadden's speed and quickness make him an intriguing fantasy option.
When it comes to making a decision about drafting him, however, it would be best to hold out until there are three or four more proven and reliable backs already on your roster.
For authoritative coverage and analysis of NFL news, free agency and fantasy football, visit ProFootballWeekly.com.