Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Drafting Darren McFadden in fantasy is a lot like performing CPR. It's not something anyone wants to do but at some point, it has to be done.
The scene I'm describing actually happened on an episode of Seinfeld. Here's Jerry and Newman's back and forth after rescuing their unconscious friend from a health club pool.
(Waiting for Newman to perform mouth-to-mouth)
JERRY: Well, go ahead.
NEWMAN: You go.
JERRY: You knocked him out.
NEWMAN: Yeah, but you pulled him in.
JERRY: Do it.
(He thinks about it for a second)
JERRY: He might die.
NEWMAN: Yeah, maybe.
So what's it gonna be Darren ... sink or swim?
All the evidence points toward sink.
McFadden hasn't had a 1,000-yard rushing season since 2010 and has only competed in 19 of a possible 32 games over the last two seasons. The Raiders have never come close to a playoff berth during his five years in Oakland.
Even more troubling has been McFadden's lack of touchdowns. In 12 appearances last year, he only found the end zone three times. His combined rushing touchdown total since 2009 is one fewer than the number Arian Foster produced last season (15).
McFadden's yards per carry is also trending in the wrong direction. His 3.3 average last year was third-worst among qualified running backs and more than two yards below what he averaged in 2011 (5.4 yards per rush).
Basically if fantasy jail existed, McFadden would be doing time.
But since it doesn't, he's a free man again. Which means in rounds five or six, you're going to have to make a decision. Is McFadden worth the risk?
We've seen the list of cons and it's not short. But as maddening as having McFadden on your fantasy team can be, he does have a few things working in his favor this year.
The first is that it's a contract year. With McFadden's six-year deal expiring at the end of 2013, he should be more motivated than ever to put up a crooked stat line. At age 26, this may be the last chance he has at a multi-year deal.
The second is that he won't have much competition for carries. McFadden's backup, Rashad Jennings, is coming off a pitiful year in Jacksonville (2.8 yards per carry). He was so bad that fourth-stringer Montell Owens eventually passed him on the running back depth chart.
Oakland's offense lost some key pieces this offseason including QB Carson Palmer and one of his favorite targets, wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. Without them, the Raiders' passing game won't be nearly as effective and it could lead to more carries for DMC.
McFadden, who has always been a fixture in PPR leagues (25.1 receiving yards per game for his career), may see his role expand in the passing game as well.
Neither Matt Flynn or Terrelle Pryor are strong options at quarterback. Generally, when that's the case, the plan is to keep things as simple as possible. If Oakland sticks to dink and dunk football in 2013, McFadden could post career-highs in receptions and yards.
You've probably noticed that at 6-foot-2, McFadden is unusually tall for a halfback. That can work both ways. The added size helps in goal line situations when it's power against power but the lankiness makes him a little easier to grab onto than some of the league's shorter, more elusive backs like Maurice Jones-Drew or Ray Rice.
Thankfully, McFadden has one of the best blocking fullbacks in the game to open up holes for him. Marcel Reece, a 255-pound wrecking ball, has been excellent for the Raiders since joining the team in 2008. Last year marked his first Pro Bowl appearance.
But will any of it matter when the Raiders are trailing by three touchdowns in the fourth quarter week after week?
The Raiders barely made any improvements this offseason, which doesn't bode well for a team that finished 4-12. When Oakland falls behind, which should be an almost weekly occurrence, the offense will have no choice but to air it out. In that scenario, McFadden would be reduced to little more than a spectator, canceling out any sleeper value he may have had.
The injury-prone McFadden isn't just a risky player. He's the RISKIEST player.
So I guess the real question is, are you feeling lucky?
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