First Down: Darren McFadden is about to go friggin' nuts

It seems every year at least one running back selected in the early mid-rounds tallies a breakthrough campaign, warranting owners to covet him as a roster cornerstone the following season. Last year, Michael Turner(notes), Matt Forte(notes), DeAngelo Williams(notes) and Chris Johnson were prime examples.

This season, Oakland's Darren McFadden(notes) might just be ‘09's ADP-leaping juggernaut. Bypass him in Round 4 and Tom Cable will punch you in the face.

Drafted fourth overall by the Raiders in ‘08, the former two-time Doak Walker Award winner from Arkansas is in an ideal position to greatly exceed his current draft position. Going around the same time he did this time last year ('08 ADP: 47.98, '09: 49.56), the second-year missile is grossly undervalued. At present, he's the 24th back selected in average drafts, preceded by Derrick Ward(notes) and succeeded by Larry Johnson(notes). Even Banana Hands Braylon Edwards(notes) is leaving the green room earlier.

If Cable's recent declaration that an increased workload is on the docket for McFadden, the versatile rusher will become a keystone piece on championship rosters. From the Contra Costa Times:

When Cable was asked how close McFadden was to starting and carrying the ball more, Cable said, "I'd say pretty close.''

When it was suggested fans might want to see McFadden get 20 touches a game, Cable said, "I was thinking more touches than that, but if they want 20, we'll work on it.

Asked about getting McFadden into a groove with additional carries, Cable said, "I'll tell you the same thing about Justin Fargas(notes) and Michael Bush(notes), too. I'm not going to get into any of that. I know where we're headed, and you'll see when we get there."

Cable said the third preseason game might give a glimpse of how the running back rotation will actually work.

Hampered by painful turf toe ailments in both feet last season, McFadden only showed occasional flashes of his elite potential, eclipsing 100 total yards just three times. Overall, he averaged a mere 10.9 touches per contest, netting 5.5 yards per grip. However, extrapolating Cable's desired per game touch total over a 15 game slate using last season's averages, he would've racked 1,650 total yards and roughly eight scores, an output eerily similar to Captain Quick (Johnson).

Despite his rocket 4.33 40-yard wheels, tacky hands and expected expanded role, several mitigating factors do exist. When you play for the Crypt Keeper, limitations are all too common. For starters, the uncertainty surrounding the Oakland air game is unsettling. JaMarcus Russell(notes) and Jeff Garcia(notes) must be at least serviceable to prevent persistent stacked boxes, especially when you consider the below average appearance of the offensive line. Also, Cable's insistence on utilizing Justin Fargas and Michael Bush in some yet-to-be-determined capacity is unnerving. As the coach noted above, the carries split in the third preseason game will be critical in accurately gauging McFadden's value.

Still, with three-time All-Pro fullback Lorenzo Neal(notes) creating avenues and McFadden's premiere skill set, the upside is certainly there for a banner campaign. If his explosive 4-for-63-yard performance against Dallas was a glimpse of the immediate future (Highlights via NFL.com here), the Silver and Black back's palpable greatness will be realized in ‘09.

Fearless Forecast (15 games): 219 rushes, 1,007 rushing yards, 42 receptions, 402 receiving yards, 7 total touchdowns

How many total touches will McFadden accumulate? What's your Fearless Forecast? Where will you draft him? Discuss below.

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Image courtesy of AP

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