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2012 Draft Prep: McFadden the ultimate risk/reward

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Darren McFadden knows what you think of him. He hears the whispers of being called fragile and weak. In your view, porcelain dolls have a better chance of staying healthy compared to the Raiders running back.

McFadden is five years into his NFL career and has yet to play a full 16-game season. He has missed 19 of a possible 60 games, and last year was his worst season of all with only seven games played thanks to a Lisfranc injury in his right foot.

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But he's back this year at 100 percent, and his goal is to dominate the NFL. We believe in McFadden, and the prediction here is he will have a career year.

"I just want to come out there and pick up where I left off at," McFadden recently told the local Oakland media. "The type of injury that I had was something that set me down for a long time, but a lot of people may think it is hard to bounce back and get back in the flow of things. Once I am back out there on the field, I feel like I am at home, so I will just go out there and try to pick up where I left off."

Where McFadden left off in 2011 was impressive. Prior to going down, he had 113 carries for 614 rushing yards and four touchdowns and 19 catches for 154 yards and one touchdown. He was averaging 14.3 Fantasy points per game, which would have made him a Top 10 running back if he kept up that pace.

McFadden has been a beast when healthy. He has averaged 88.5 rush yards and 33.0 receiving yards over his last 20 starts with 15 total touchdowns -- all with Michael Bush there. Bush is gone now, signing as a free agent with the Bears, and McFadden's touches could actually increase given the lack of quality talent behind him with unproven commodities in Mike Goodson and Taiwan Jones.

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But the biggest issue with McFadden as we all know is health. Can he stay on the field? His best season to date was 2010 when he played 13 games and finished with 223 carries for 1,157 yards and seven touchdowns and 47 catches for 507 yards and three touchdowns. Fantasy owners would take that production in a second, and if he managed 16 games the stats would be phenomenal.

"I think we all understand that he's an explosive playmaker for us, and we need him to be healthy for an entire season," Raiders coach Dennis Allen said.

McFadden feels great now at the start of training camp, and he said he doesn't plan to alter his running style to protect himself from injuries. Fantasy owners will still fear McFadden, but if you want to win championships sometimes you have to gamble on talented players and hope they perform.

McFadden certainly falls into that category. He knows what he's capable of when he steps on the field, and he hopes this is the year he sheds the injury-prone label.

"It is one of those things where it happens in football," McFadden said of getting hurt. "I can't say I am unlucky about it. I am a very blessed person to even be playing in this league, so for me I just go out there and take it one day at a time. I can't control injuries. If I get hurt, I am going to get hurt going hard. So it's something I can't control, and I am not going to go out there and play to not get hurt."

McFadden's Average Draft Position at the start of training camp is No. 11 overall. He is being drafted as the No. 7 running back behind Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy, Ray Rice, Ryan Mathews, Chris Johnson and Maurice Jones-Drew. That's the right spot for McFadden to go. He has elite talent and if he plays close to a full season, he could easily be a Top 5 running back.

There is risk involved with drafting McFadden, but if he rewards you with a significant amount of games played then you could be looking at a possible Fantasy championship.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg and on Facebook .

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Trent Richardson returns to practice
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:53 pm ET) Colts running back Trent Richardson, who had not practiced since Thursday due to a hamstring issue, returned to work Wednesday, reports the Indianapolis Star.

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by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:46 pm ET) The Lions added receiving weapons in the offseason that should result in fewer targets for Calvin Johnson, reports MLive.com. Johnson was targeted 157 times in 14 games last year, after drawing a league-high 204 targets in 2012.

"Shoot, we just need to get wins. That's all that counts," Johnson said. "We get more wins, I'm happy either way. I'm fine with that. Whatever coach needs me to do, I'll do it."

The website notes Johnson is being used at both outside receiver positions and in the slot this year. "I'm trying to learn everything," Johnson said. "It's a little learning curve. You sit there in the huddle and you have to think about it a second longer than you want to.

"But in the end, I'm learning everything so I can go play every position whenever coach needs me to. I think it'll benefit the team."


No timetable on Calvin Pryor's return
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(1:33 pm ET) Jets rookie safety Calvin Pryor is going through concussion protocol. Coach Rex Ryan told the Associated Press he has no indication when the first-rounder might return.

Lamar Miller taking advantage of opportunity
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:24 pm ET) With Knowshon Moreno (knee) on the PUP list, Dolphins running back Lamar Miller is staking a strong claim to the starting job.

"I like everything he’s done, really," coach Joe Philbin said. "He’s a guy that this is year three and, as I’ve said before, I think his first year, I want to say he had about 150 yards rushing. Last year, he had around 700-and-change. Now, it’s his third year. He knows the expectations. He knows what the job description and requirements are of a running back in the National Football League.

"I anticipate he’s going to have a very good season and I think he’s off to a good start."

Miller ran for 250 yards as a rookie, 709 yards last year.


Morgan Burnett tweaks ankle
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(1:19 pm ET) Packers starting safety Morgan Burnett missed Wednesday's practice after tweaking his ankle, reports ESPN.com. Micah Hyde and rookie Ha Ha Clinton-Dix were the first-team safeties.

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(1:15 pm ET) The Redskins signed former Colts defensive end Jake McDonough, reports ESPN.com.

T.J. Jones unsure if he'll be ready for start of season
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:12 pm ET) Lions rookie receiver T.J. Jones, who's coming back from shoulder surgery, is doing individual drills but not catching passes yet. He told MLive.com he doesn't know if he'll be ready for the start of the season.

"Depends on how long my body wants to heal," he said. "Right now I'm just focused on coming back as strong and as healthy as I can be, for whenever that day is."

The sixth-round pick out of Notre Dame has fallen behind and is in danger of not making the team.


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(12:58 pm ET) Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller, who tore his ACL in Week 16, is progressing well and it's "more than realistic that he could play in the preseason," according to the team's website. Miller went through individual drills and some 7-on-7 work in the first week of camp

"I’m in a great spot," Miller said. "Recovering from an ACL is nothing -- I’m out here playing the game I love and I’m feeling great."

Miller did post-practice sprints Monday and was near the front of the pack, the report said. His knee brace does not seem to be holding him back.

"I try not to let my brace be an excuse or a reason why not to do something," Miller said. "It’s the brace, it’s what I’ve got to wear. I feel like I can play football without shoulder pads, but I’m not going to let wearing shoulder pads have me out there like, ‘Man, I can’t play football today.' So having the brace on is just part of it. It’s what I’ve got to do."


Kyle Long able to do limited work
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(12:48 pm ET) Bears guard Kyle Long, who had been dealing with a viral infection, returned to strength and conditioning drills Wednesday, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Darren McFadden ahead of Maurice Jones-Drew for No. 1 job
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:41 pm ET) Raiders running back Darren McFadden "has the starting edge" over Maurice Jones-Drew, reports SI.com. The website adds, however, that "this should be a committee backfield considering McFadden’s injury history -- he’s yet to play a full season in six."

 
 
 
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