Skip to main content

Instant Debate

Frank Gore vs. Darren McFadden: Who will be more productive in 2015?

Frank Gore and Darren McFadden both left the Bay Area in free agency this offseason, but that's about where the similarities between these two veteran running backs end.

After enduring an injury-riddled college career at Miami, Gore entered the league as a third-round pick. Despite this unremarkable draft pedigree, Gore emerged as one of the NFL's most consistent backs, eclipsing 1,000 yards rushing in eight of his 10 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. Meanwhile, McFadden put together a sterling college résumé at Arkansas, piling up 4,590 rushing yards in three seasons and twice finishing as the runner-up in Heisman Trophy voting. But after going fourth overall in the 2008 NFL Draft, McFadden managed to top 1,000 yards rushing in just one of his seven seasons with the Oakland Raiders, with injuries significantly limiting his playing time.

The differences between these two backs will continue in 2015. While Gore will be running behind the Indianapolis Colts' suspect offensive line, McFadden will be flanked by one of the best position groups in football -- the Dallas Cowboys' O-line. Is this the year Gore's age (32) catches up to him? Is this the year McFadden finally lives up to his draft billing? Who will enjoy a better 2015 campaign: Mr. Reliable (Gore) or Mr. Glass (McFadden)?

I believe Frank Gore will enjoy a more productive season. Darren McFadden has had numerous opportunities to show what he can do over the course of his career -- and the results have been underwhelming. Dallas might argue that McFadden has not had the kind of support around him that he'll enjoy in Dallas -- and that is true. McFadden has shown Pro Bowl ability at times, but he just can't seem to stay on the field. I don't know why, seven years into McFadden's NFL career, we should suddenly expect better health. Gore will hit a wall at some point -- and yes, this might be the year -- but I still find it easier to believe in him than McFadden. Frank Gore is the easy answer, but Darren McFadden is the right one. Yes, the former 49ers star has the far better track record of the two, but San Francisco's unwillingness to bring him back is indicative of the considerable wear on his tires. Check the history on 10-year veteran running backs who change teams -- they rarely deliver in the new uniform.

Meanwhile, McFadden couldn't have asked for a better situation. He somehow landed behind the best offensive line in the league, then escaped the draft without Dallas selecting an incoming rookie to challenge him. He also has less than half the career carries of Gore. That's due in part to his own injury history, of course, but he'll produce more behind the Dallas line than Gore will in a Colts offense centered on the passing attack. Even if Frank Gore's age starts to show, he's guaranteed to be the man in the Colts' running game. Despite the glowing optimism spouting from Dallas, I'm not sure Darren McFadden will definitely beat out Joseph Randle, Lance Dunbar or Ryan Williams. Even if McFadden does get handed the starting gig in Week 1, how long will that last?

Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton wants to run the ball so badly that he force-fed 
Trent Richardson -- who proceeded to trip over the lines on the field -- last season. Gore has the pedigree and will be on the field every down, as he's the NFL's best pass-blocking back and is a legitimate weapon in the passing game. Time equals production, and Gore will have plenty of both in a dynamic offense. 

The Colts, of course, had nobody who could run the ball last season, and I think Frank Gore will be an effective complementary weapon in Indy; I see him finishing with something like 750 yards. But the ceiling is simply higher for Darren McFadden in Dallas. He's a very talented player, both as a runner and a receiver. Behind that Cowboys offensive line, he has a chance to break the 1,000-yard mark for the first time since 2010, even if he ends up splitting carries with Joseph Randle. I'll go with Mr. Glass. Darren McFadden will have the luxury of gliding behind one of the best offensive lines in recent NFL history. Assuming the staff in Dallas has the same routine down that was used for DeMarco Murray, the Cowboys should be able to squeeze a decent season out of the former star and keep him relatively healthy. He was one of the few players owner Jerry Jones coveted and didn't initially get, and you'd better believe he'll use him now.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content