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.
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.