Mar 12,2014

Shocking News: John Evans has stuff to say about DMC and The Raiders!!!

When he’s not trying to pick up impossibly tall women or drinking himself into a sullen stupor, my X’s and Y’s co-host is diving frontal lobe first into any and all NFL related news. The fervor with which he has attacked this period of free agency is impressive to say the least. Next week, John and I will show off our study skills in a special UFA edition of the ‘cast, but this week I’m letting him grind his teeth about DMC and his beloved Raiders on my site. All joking aside, this is great info for any fantasy die-hard and a must-read article for dynasty owners. Have at it!

Darren McFadden, RB
Re-signs with the Oakland Raiders

In one of the more surprising developments of free agency up to that point, Raiders running back Darren McFadden re-signed with Oakland rather than being reunited with Hue Jackson in Cincinnati, as many predicted. McFadden had his best year in 2010 when Jackson was his head coach, totaling 1664 yards and 10 TDs. After playing just 7 games in 2011 and highly disappointing campaigns in 2012 and 2013, McFadden could muster only a 1-year, $1.75 million deal with additional incentives. It’s a low-cost, low-risk deal.

The Raiders’ current head man Dennis Allen has previously shown only lukewarm support for the former first rounder his coaching staff inherited, while Rashad Jennings seemed like the coaches’ clear favorite to McFadden. But Jennings signed a surprisingly lucrative deal with the New York Giants and unsurprisingly, Oakland GM Reggie McKenzie failed to match it. Jennings’ defection was announced earlier, so it’s possible that Oakland was left scrambling for a Plan B. The organization couldn’t feel confident entering the season with untested second-year-man Latavius Murray and the ever-underestimated Marcel Reece as its primary incumbents at running back.

McFadden returns to a team with an unsettled quarterback position and an already subpar offensive line that just lost its best piece, left tackle Jared Veldheer, to Arizona. Veldheer was a better pass protector than run blocker but his more-expensive replacement, former Ram Rodger Saffold, seems like a downgrade. He’s also missed 18 games since he entered the league in 2011. It’s unlikely that Oakland will emerge from the NFL draft with an elite offensive lineman to block for McFadden, given that their first-round pick (No. 4 overall) is earmarked for a quarterback or wide receiver (reportedly).

In addition to his well-documented injury woes, McFadden is coming off two poor seasons. The first could be attributed to zone blocking that didn’t play to McFadden’s strengths — size and a decisive, explosive burst to the hole. But he averaged the same anemic 3.3 yards per carry in the power-blocking scheme Oakland re-instituted in 2013. The line might have lacked road-graders but as a team the Raiders averaged 4.6 yards per carry. One might think the fleet-footed QB Terrelle Pryor inflated that average, but Jennings posted a 4.5 YPC mark.

It appears that a laundry list of lower-body injuries may have significantly sapped McFadden’s speed and explosiveness. However, he is just 27 in August and has never been healthy enough to accumulate the carries of a Ray Rice or Marshawn Lynch. There is certainly a chance that this once-spectacular player can thrive in an offense that can give defenses more to worry about than himself.

It’s hard to say if Oakland can field that kind of offense this season, but there is plenty of room for improvement. Considering how uneven the Raiders’ passers were in 2013, significantly better quarterback play isn’t an unrealistic goal. Adding a receiver the caliber of Sammy Watkins would certainly draw defensive attention. If the line play is passable and McFadden is given feature-back touches or close to it, he would provide strong RB2 numbers in the 10 games he can be projected to play.

However, at this point all signs point to some degree of time-share in the Oakland backfield. The Raiders brought McFadden back at a price that doesn’t bespeak much confidence in him. Latavius Murray is likely to get his shot at playing spoiler to McFadden in 2014, much in the same way Jennings did in 2013. While Murray is completely unproven at the NFL level, he is a younger, more physically gifted player than Jennings. There is also Grey Cup MVP Kory Sheets in the mix (and old reliable, Marcel Reece). Adding another RB seems likely.

Ultimately, McFadden returning to Oakland is disappointing news for his fantasy owners. A thunder-and-lightning pairing in Cincinnati painted a much prettier picture. While he has the opportunity to command a larger role with the Raiders, a big improvement on his poor production of the last two years is probably too much to hope for.

2014 Projections

G = 10
Rushing Yards = 615
YPG = 61.5
Receiving Yards = 188
Receptions = 28
Total TDs = 6

Projected Redraft ADP: Pick 80
Projected Dynasty Startup ADP: Pick 50