Darren McFadden may eventually turn out to be a great running back, but it’s not likely to happen this season a-la-Adrian Peterson style. True the Oakland Raiders rushed the ball over 450 times last year and were able to produce a 1,000 yard rusher in Justin Fargas, but that was with veteran (although average) quarterbacks in the backfield. This year JaMarcus Russell will take over as the signal caller and defenses will not be shy about stacking eight men in the box to stop the run. And unlike the offensive line Adrian Peterson runs behind, Oakland will not be able to block that many men. It’s not all bad for Run-DMC though, owner Al Davis loves speed so Justin Fargas can probably kiss his starting position goodbye. If not now, then later in the season. I foresee McFadden splitting the teams carries with Fargas and getting most of the carries near the goal line. Fargas meanwhile will have about 175 carries and the finally healthy Michael Bush will carry 75 times or so. However if JaMarcus Russell matures quickly, (having the newly acquired Javon Walker will help), then we can look for McFadden to have a very productive rookie season, especially if he can stay healthy. He has solid hands and will probably be used amply in the passing game whenever JaMarcus needs a safety valve to dump the ball off. Oaklands future pairing of Bush/McFadden in the backfield could prove very scary. For you draft leaguers, look for him to be about the 25th running back taken off the board assuming he is healthy and signed when the season starts.
One running back you may want to keep your eye on is UCF alum and Detroit Lions running back Kevin Smith. He will be competing with Tatum Bell for the starting job and we all saw how Bell performed last year. Detroit used a third round draft pick on Smith and he joins the NFL after nearly breaking Barry Sanders record for most rushing yards in a collegiate season. Sanders, as you recall, was a Detroit Lion as well. And though Detroit’s offensive line has been mediocre the past few years, they did spend a first round pick on tackle Gosder Cherilus to help give it a boost. If Kevin Smith manages to snare the starting job, look for him to be a solid #3 RB with plenty of upside.