We’ve been spoiled in recent years by running backs who make an immediate impact as rookies. From Adrian Peterson in 2007 to Chris Johnson in 2008, football fans expect tailbacks who will be great at the NFL to become great instantly.
And so, when Raiders running back Darren McFadden, who like Johnson was a first-round pick in 2008, didn’t fulfill his potential right away, it was believed that McFadden’s career arc would more closely resemble Reggie Bush’s. But after generating only 499 and 357 yards, respectively, in his first two seasons, McFadden racked up 1,157 yards in his third season.
This year, the number could go even higher, after McFadden opened the campaign with 150 yards on 22 carries, for an average of 6.8 yards per carry.
One person who thinks McFadden is destined for great things? Raiders offensive coordinator Al Saunders.
He puts McFadden in the same category as other players Saunders has coached, including Marcus Allen, Marshall Faulk, and Priest Holmes. “I’ve been fortunate to be around some great running backs, but he’s one of those guys you put in that class,” Saunders said, via Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee. “He’s a young kid that has just tremendous speed and tremendous potential, he catches the ball extremely well and I think he established what he is last year and he’s continuing to follow in that way this year.”
McFadden is indeed still young. Only 20 when he reported for his rookie training camp, McFadden recently turned 24, giving him five or six more years of possible high-end production. And if he can stay healthy, he could emerge as the top running back in the league — just as everyone expected when McFadden entered the league via Arkansas in 2008.