Darren McFadden's 2012 performance in former coordinator Greg Knapp's ill-suited zone-blocking scheme was so disappointing that it had the running back's "blood boiling" all offseason.
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Entering the final year of his rookie contract, McFadden realizes it's a poor time to negotiate a new deal with the Oakland Raiders after he averaged an NFL-low 3.27 yards per carry in yet another injury-plagued season.
The Raiders have "checked in" with McFadden about a contract extension, according to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport, but the former No. 4 overall draft pick has demurred. Extra motivated to prove he still can channel the dynamic workhorse he was under Hue Jackson in 2010 and parts of 2011, McFadden believes he will put himself in position to command a mega contract in 2014.
"Obviously, he never felt comfortable in what we were doing last year," Raiders coach Dennis Allen told Rapoport. "That led to some questions about him, but if you watch practice, the guy's still explosive. He's still a threat to take it all the way. And he feels more comfortable. If you don't quite trust it, there's always that doubt."
Make no mistake, McFadden's contract approach is risky after he missed at least three games in each of his five seasons. With stiff hips and below-average lateral agility, McFadden has been a scheme-dependent back in the NFL. The good news is that new coordinator Greg Olson and offensive line coach Tony Sparano are returning to a power-blocking scheme that will play to McFadden's strengths as an explosive straight-line runner at his best with a two- or three-step head of steam.
In an era when communication technology has made the fantasy football "sleeper" obsolete, talented but disfavored players such as McFadden are the new lottery ticket.