Part II: RB Darren McFadden, Arkansas
2007 stats – 325 carries, 1,830 rushing yards, 17 total touchdowns
Career stats – 785 carries, 4,590 rushing yards, 44 total touchdowns
Can history repeat itself in Kansas City? When the Chiefs drafted running back Larry Johnson in 2003 with an in-his-prime Priest Holmes already on the roster, fans weren’t exactly thrilled.
Five years later, there’s no question about the pick – Kansas City hit a home run by selecting Johnson. Would picking McFadden result in a similar plate appearance, or would the Chiefs be merely grounding to shortstop?
There’s no question Run DMC is an electrifying talent. He amassed an incredible 22 100-yard efforts in 38 games as a Razorback, returned kicks for scores, and even threw the ball like LaDanian Tomlinson (seven career touchdown passes).
McFadden only increased his draft stock this offseason, impressing scouts with a 4.33-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. At 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, many are already comparing McFadden to last year’s rookie sensation runner, Adrian Peterson.
How would all those talents and measurables translate to the Chiefs’ backfield?
With Johnson entrenched as KC’s starter, McFadden would likely supplant second-year runner Kolby Smith as the main backup. Johnson improved his pass-catching last season, but you can bet McFadden would see plenty of work on third downs – at Arkansas, Run DMC showed good hands and blocked well in pass protection. He’s been compared to Marshall Faulk, the ultimate NFL receiving option out of the backfield, and is even capable of splitting out wide.
A dual-threat backfield of Johnson and McFadden is certainly an enticing proposition, one that would give opposing defensive coordinators nightmares. After seeing what Chan Gailey did in Pittsburgh with Kordell Stewart, it’s logical to think he’d find a place for a similar dynamic talent within the framework of KC’s offense.
McFadden's dynamic talents could electrify KC's offense.
Then there’s what McFadden can do for Johnson – namely, extend his career. After 416 carries in 2006 and a nasty foot injury in 2007, there are doubts about the longevity of LJ’s NFL future.
With McFadden receiving a chunk of the carries, the Chiefs just might witness Johnson play out the remainder of his contract extension. Jerome Bettis, one of the greatest NFL power backs of all time, played until the age of 33 because the Steelers wisely moderated his carries before he hit the age of 30.
Four years from now, imagine the Chiefs having built a team worthy of Super Bowl contention. By this time, McFadden might have supplanted Johnson as the starting running back (ala Willie Parker in Pittsburgh), with LJ coming off the bench for short-yardage and goal-line duty.
Picture McFadden bursting down the sidelines late in the 2012 Super Bowl, setting up the Chiefs for a go-ahead touchdown. Then visualize Johnson carrying the ball across the goal line from a yard out for the winning score and flashing his trademark diamond one last time. There’s nothing more heartwarming for an NFL fan than watching an old, crusty veteran ride off into the sunset a champion. McFadden just might be able to do that for Johnson.
Back in reality, it should also be noted that McFadden would instantly fix KC’s woeful return game. Certainly, he has a lot to offer the Chiefs as the fifth pick in the draft.
So why pass up the opportunity to draft McFadden? I can give you about 45 million reasons.
The gigantic contract Johnson signed last offseason makes giving another running back big-time money a little counter-productive. Last year’s fifth pick in the draft, offensive tackle Levi Brown, signed a six-year, $62 million deal with the Cardinals. Peterson, who was taken seventh overall, received $40 million over five years.
You can probably count on McFadden going after a $50 million contract as soon as he’s drafted, and that might be a conservative estimate considering the NFL’s fiscal landscape at the moment. Is it really wise for the Chiefs to tie up almost $100 million in contracts among two running backs, especially when the franchise is attempting to build? The only real positive here is that McFadden isn’t represented by Ethan Lock or Drew Rosenhaus.
Money aside, how would Johnson react to the drafting of another premier running back? Yes, it might light a fire under him the size of Krakatoa, resulting in another record-setting season.
But the potential negative consequences could easily erupt on the scale of Pompeii. Johnson could orchestrate another holdout if McFadden received a larger contract. He might demand a trade to another team. He might appear in another music video with Fantasia Barrino (oh, the horror!).
Can McFadden protect the ball in the NFL?
Matt Slocum - AP
All sorts of things can go wrong when you have one high-priced, moody running back on your team and another shows up with his own off-the-field baggage (McFadden dislocated a toe in 2006 after a bar fight, and reportedly has baby’s mama-issues, ala Travis Henry).
And is it really a great idea to draft another running back when your offensive line sits in shambles? The thought of watching two expensive runners slam into the backs of lackluster linemen for 16 games isn’t appealing.
You might argue a team like the Patriots or Cowboys could use McFadden, because both franchises can afford a luxury pick at this point. The Chiefs aren’t in the same position. There are too many holes on both sides of the ball to consider upgrading what is already one of the team’s stronger positions.
Should everything work out with the contract situation, the team chemistry and the offensive line, there’s still more looming disaster. McFadden fumbled a whopping 15 times last season. Can you imagine the discord at Arrowhead Stadium if Run DMC replaced a disgruntled Larry Johnson in the middle of an offensive series this year and fumbled his first handoff, turning the ball over? The fans would boo, Johnson would vent post-game to the media, and a turnover-conscious coach like Herm Edwards would certainly have something interesting to say.
Yeah, there’s plenty to consider when it comes to drafting Darren McFadden. He could blow up in Kansas City, or self-destruct in the face of anyone and everyone who cares about the Chiefs. Either way, he’s an explosive prospect.
The final word:
As ludicrous as it might be, don't discount the possibility that Kansas City might pick McFadden. Warpaint Illustrated was recently informed that McFadden has been seriously discussed at Arrowhead as recently as this past week. According to our source, the Chiefs definitely have an interest in the rookie running back.
Previously: QB Matt Ryan
Next: OT Jake Long