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Scout's Notebook: Raiders RB Darren McFadden

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By Nolan Nawrocki

RB Darren McFadden, Raiders
Ht
: 6-1 1/8, Wt: 211, Sp: 4.36

Notes: Nicknamed "DMC". Was a two-time Doak Walker Award winner (top collegiate running back) in 2006-07 after exploding onto the scene as a true freshman from the rough streets of North Little Rock, Arkansas. Helped popularize the "Wildcat formation," which Razorbacks QB coach David Lee brought to the Dolphins in 2008, by throwing seven TDs his final two seasons. Finished Arkansas career rushing for 4,590 yards on 785 carries (5.8-yard average) and 41 TDs while catching 46 passes for 365 yards and two TDs. Became one of two Arkansas backs along with teammate Felix Jones (24th overall, Cowboys) to be selected in the first round in 2008, being taken fourth overall by the Raiders despite swirling concerns from multiple bar fights and the hiring of an attorney to handle paternity issues. Signed a six-year, $60.1 million contract that included $26 million in guarantees. Started 5-of-13 games as a rookie for Lane Kiffin, rushing 113-499-4 (4.4) and catching 29-285-0 (9.8) but was slowed considerably by a lingering toe injury. Only started 7-of-12 games in '09 for Tom Cable after requiring surgery on a torn meniscus midway through the season and finished rushing for a career-low 104-357-1 (3.4) and catching 21-245-0 (11.7). Produced a career-best 223-1,157-7 (5.2) on the ground and 47-507-3 (10.8) in '10 for new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson in 13 starts, missing three with a hamstring injury. Suffered a broken orbital (eye) bone in fall camp while delivering a block on Quentin Groves in practice and missed part of fall '11 camp. Returned to rush 22-150-0 (6.8) in the season opener vs. Denver in '11 for new offensive coordinator Al Saunders. Has 12 career fumbles.

Positives: Has a rare size-speed combo and an explosive, big-play flair. Runs with urgency and can convert speed to power. Very good vision and run balance. Possesses outstanding cutback anticipation and straight-line acceleration — can plant and go. Shredded with muscle and can shock and shed tacklers with a violent stiff arm. Physical, improving blocker — stones blitzers in their tracks. Natural hands-catcher, good situational passing accuracy and explosive return ability — can do it all. Extremely competitive and can jumpstart an offense.

Negatives: Is tight in the hips, tends to run upright and will always be threatened by injury given his lean frame and hip inflexibility and the speed and physicality with which he runs. Is an impatient, long strider — does not consistently follow blocks and struggles to elude many tackles in the open field. Does not easily sink his hips and tends to weave. Is a rigid route runner. Ball security was a major issue in college and still can improve. Has missed time to injuries every season and yet to prove he can become a 16-game-season bellcow.

Summary: An explosively fast, upright, injury-prone stretch-zone runner with big-play capability, McFadden has proven himself as a versatile, big-play weapon, an aggressive, tempo-setter and one of the most feared, all-purpose runners in footballl, when healthy. However, durability issues have plagued his short career. Has a history of off-field concerns, but has blended well in Oakland and shown he could handle a revolving set of coaches. An All-Pro talent, McFadden could emerge like Priest Holmes did in Al Saunders' offense.

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