Sports Outside the Beltway

NFL Draft 2008 – Round 1 #4 – Oakland Raiders – RB Darren McFadden

NFL Draft 2008 Logo The Oakland Raiders have been widely predicted to be targeting Darren McFadden, the superstar running back out of Arkansas. But can they pass up on Glenn Dorsey? Or trading down for more picks?

McFadden it is! As a Cowboys fan, I’m happy: This will end the crazy speculation about Jerry Jones trading up to spend too much for a guy we don’t need.

So far, this draft is zipping along. Last year, it seemed everyone was taking every bit of their 15 minutes. Now, with 10 minutes as the limit, most aren’t needing it all.

Scouts, Inc.: 3rd

Strengths: Phenomenal athlete. Possesses good height and adequate bulk (better upper-body than lower-body). Rare burst for his size; no play better illustrates that second-gear better than his 73-yard touchdown run in the third quarter versus LSU. He runs with good vision and great patience but explodes through the line of scrimmage once he finds the crease. Very few NFL runners possess his type of second-gear to bounce runs outside and to run away from defenders in the open field. Very fluid in space and can change directions without losing much momentum at all. He can be a powerful runner with a full head of steam. Exceptional stiff arm. Very strong upper body. Keeps his legs pumping in traffic and will break many attempted arm tackles. Displays outstanding balance. Will gain lots of yards after contact simply because he bounces off the tackler and regains his balance instead of going down. Lacks ideal experience as a receiver but is fluid enough to adjust to poorly thrown ball and displays very soft hands for a RB. Can also be an occasional passing threat in the NFL, as seen in his dual-threat role as the signal caller in the Razorbacks’ Wild Hog formation.

Weaknesses: He runs a bit high and his lower-body is a bit lean. Has never been forced to carry a full 25-30 carry throughout a full season in college. Had carried the ball more than 30 times in just five games during his three seasons at Arkansas. Ran out of gas late in Alabama game (2007). Lacks ideal experience as a receiver. Needs some polishing as a route runner. Also could be more aggressive as blocker; must learn to attack with better leverage. Character must also be studied. Is there more to the minor off-the-field incidents than we are led to believe?

Overall: McFadden shattered the Arkansas’ freshman rushing record with 1,113 yards and 11 touchdowns on 176 carries. He played a versatile role throughout his three seasons with the Razorbacks prior to declaring early for the 2008 NFL draft. During that three-season span, McFadden rushed for 4,590 yards and 41 scores on 785 carries, caught 46 passes for 365 yards and two touchdowns. He also threw seven touchdown passes and returned a kickoff for a score. Involved in a fight outside of a Little Rock club in August of 2005. Was investigated for an illegal vehicle during the 2007 season but was cleared of all accusations. Was handcuffed but not arrested on January 10, 2008 for his role an altercation at a Little Rock bar. McFadden possesses rare physical tools. In fact, it’s safe to say he’s the most talented athlete in the 2008 class. He is a homerun hitter as a runner with the size of an every-down back. He displays soft hands as a receiver and outstanding open-field running skills as a receiver and return man, and he also is capable of occasionally burning an overloaded defense with the halfback option pass. There are only two questions regarding McFadden that NFL teams must consider at the top of the board: does he possess the lower-body/durability to carry a full load at the next level, and are his few minor off-the-field incidents forewarning of character issues to come? As long as a team is comfortable with the answers to both of those questions McFadden is worth of any selection in this year’s draft.

Rick Gosselin: 2nd

Mel Kiper: 2nd

The reasons for his dynamic performances throughout his career are excellent vision, very good balance, game-breaking speed and a passion for the game.

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