Darren McAverage
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The mailman doesn't deliver on Sundays and neither does Darren McFadden.

Once again, my fantasy fate rested in the hands of McFadden on Sunday and, again, the Oakland Raiders running back failed me.

A week after an embarrassingly futile 27-carry/70-yard game against Atlanta, McFadden was thwarted by the Jacksonville Jaguars, the league's fourth-most generous defense in terms of rushing yards allowed. He ended the day with a measly 53 yards on 19 rushing attempts.

When I took McFadden 25th overall in the third round of my draft, I was thinking "stud," but his stat line through six games tells a different story. It tells us that McFadden, long thought to be the hidden gem in the Oakland backfield ("If only he could stay healthy!" fantasy owners have lamented for the last four years), is indeed very average.

Maybe all those years of getting hurt have finally caught up to the 25-year- old. This season, the former Arkansas standout has averaged 3.1 yards per attempt and 54 rushing yards per contest. In seven games last season, McFadden averaged a much more respectable 87.7 yards per game on 5.4 yards per attempt.

McFadden's numbers would be even more ordinary without the help of his inexplicably solid 113-yard game Week 3 against Pittsburgh. Take away that outing and McFadden would be averaging a mere 2.48 yards per carry. Even McFadden's scarecrow of a starting quarterback Carson Palmer has a higher yards per carry average than that (2.6).

McFadden is known for his big-play ability and breakaway speed, but neither of those traits have been on display in 2012. During his injury-shortened 2011 campaign, McFadden generated eight rushes of 20 yards or more. Only one of McFadden's 103 carries this season has gone for over 20 yards. That rush came on a 64-yard touchdown sprint against the Steelers.

The 6-foot-1, 218-pound running back has been a fixture in points-per- reception leagues over the past few years, but even that facet of McFadden's game is beginning to slip. More than half of McFadden's 25 catches and 167 receiving yards this season came in one game, a Week 1 loss to San Diego (13 grabs, 86 receiving yards). Since then, McFadden has corralled 12 balls for 81 yards, an average of just two catches and 16.2 yards per game.

Part of the problem is that Oakland has played mostly from behind this season, forcing Palmer to air it out rather than handing it off to McFadden. That's probably why McFadden has only received one workload of more than 20 carries this season.

Even when McFadden has been given a chance, he has looked clumsy and slow to accelerate. Oakland's mediocre offensive line might be somewhat responsible for the running back's poor numbers this season, but ultimately it's still McFadden's job to find the holes. With the exception of Samson Satele, who signed with the Indianapolis Colts during the offseason, Oakland's offensive line is the same one that was in place last year when McFadden rushed for 614 yards in only seven games.

The Raiders play three of the league's 10 worst run-stoppers over the next six weeks, but I still wouldn't put much faith in McFadden. Only four quarterbacks in the league have averaged more pass attempts per game than Palmer has in 2012, a sign the Raiders are far more committed to their passing attack than their running game.

Plus there's Mike Goodson. Though he's not a threat to McFadden just yet, the fourth-year back out of Texas A&M has demonstrated a penchant for big plays in the return game and has averaged 8.1 yards per carry on 11 touches out of the backfield this season. If McFadden ever misses a game due to injury (and history has shown us that it's just a matter of time before he does) Goodson would be next in line for the starting running back job. If that happens, there's no guarantee McFadden would get the job back from Goodson, who has already exploded for three plays of 35-plus yards in 2012.

McFadden is a good-sized back, which makes him a candidate for goal line carries whenever the Raiders get close enough to the end zone. That's a huge selling point for fantasy owners.

The only problem is that Oakland's inconsistent offense hasn't generated many goal line attempts for McFadden to cash in on. Only six teams have settled for field goals more frequently than Oakland has in 2012 and Sunday when the Raiders did have an opportunity from one yard out, it was Palmer who got the score instead of McFadden.

Once the bye weeks have passed, fantasy owners should feel free to abandon the frustrating McFadden in favor of a more reliable back. If you're forced to continue starting McFadden like I most likely will be (thanks a lot, Maurice Jones-Drew), you better start praying for 1-yard touchdowns because that's the only way he'll be able to help your team.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Jesse Pantuosco at jpantuosco@sportsnetwork.com.

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