Running Backs Preview Part One: I Love You, Darren McFadden

February 26, 2008 – 7:12 pm by McD

This was supposed to be a preview of all the running backs available to NFL teams in the draft in April. It’s actually one of the deeper positions this year, with Scout.com rating four guys at 91 or better. More and more teams are realizing that it takes two running backs (at least) to have a truly effective ground game these days. So being deep at the running back position is very important.

This was supposed to be a running backs preview, but then Darren McFadden decided to show up at the NFL Scouting Combine, and let’s just say he more than proved that he’s the best player in the draft.

But let’s back up for a second. Remember how Tim Tebow stole McFadden’s Heisman Trophy (even though we made the case for Colt Brennan)? He ran for 1,830 yards (5.6 average) and had 16 touchdowns. Those were all improvements upon 2006 when he was second in the Heisman voting to Troy Smith – who may have been an even bigger Heisman thief than Tebow.

If that were it, he’d be the top back in this year’s class, but not necessarily a transcendent player. And yet, he’s so good at running back, that he may be the first quarterback taken this year as well. Often playing the quarterback in the “Wildcat” formation (because Casey Dick is terrible), he threw four touchdown passes as well. He was as much of a dual threat as Tebow, he just ran more. Also, he had Felix Jones in the backfield next to him, so it’s not like he had to keep the ball every running play like Tebow did.

But I digress. He’s always had an odd-size for a running back. Traditionally, backs are these squat-type guys who carry all their weight in their chest and thighs. McFadden is long and lean, more like a wide receiver, measuring in at 6’2″ and 212 pounds. He also runs a receiver’s 40-yard dash (4.33 seconds) that was second fastest at his position. Basically, he could play pretty much any skill position on the field. He’s a bigger Reggie Bush, and I mean that as a compliment.

Heading into this year’s draft, there isn’t a team in the league that couldn’t use Darren McFadden. Already people are saying the Dolphins could use the first overall pick on Chris Long, Matt Ryan or one of their other 15 positions of need. HUGE mistake. The first five picks exist only to draft players that will immediately transform a team’s offense or defense. The contracts are too expensive and the expectations are too high to not take a sure thing. Darren McFadden is that type of player. He will immediately improve whatever offensive unit he plays for. I realize that’s not saying much in Miami’s case, but still.

Usually, I don’t take a strong position on guys in the draft. It’s far too early in their careers to know what they’ll do in the league and it’s the same with McFadden. However, it’s obvious he has all the things teams look for at this time of year. Even in a loaded running backs class, he is head and shoulders above the rest in virtually every category, even in (alleged) fertility.

So draft Darren McFadden. None of the other guys are dynamic enough. None of the other players are Shawn Kemp-like enough for us. Do the right thing, guys, even if it’s just so he’ll be forced to buy a few nicer rides for his baby-mamas.

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