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McFadden will have a chance to shine for Raiders, fantasy owners

The 2008 fantasy football season saw a large number of rookies made an enormous impact.

Matt Forte, Chris Johnson and Steve Slaton were just a few of the first-year players who made a smooth and productive transition from college to the pros, helping countless owners take home their league championship in the process. One rookie who didn't make such a strong impact was ironically the one that was taken first is most seasonal, keeper and dynasty leagues.

That rookie's name was Darren McFadden.

A talented runner with immense upside, McFadden drew comparisons to Adrian Peterson and was taken in the earlier rounds as a potential No. 2 fantasy back. He went on to start a mere five games, missed three others with an injured toe and finished with disappointing numbers across the board. What's more, he was unable to surpass less-heralded veteran Justin Fargas on the team's depth chart.

On a positive note, McFadden's toe ailment is now a thing of the past. He was also one of the standouts for the Raiders in offseason workouts, and reports out of the Bay Area indicate he'll likely pass Fargas and open the 2009 campaign as the starter. The offense will also lean on McFadden and the run under coach Tom Cable rather than focus on the vertical pass attack, which has been a staple of owner Al Davis.

"I'm looking forward to seeing how much more they want to put me out there," McFadden told "But I think you're going to see me a lot more this year."

In a best-case scenario, McFadden will see 225-250 carries and the chance to catch around 50 passes as a receiver out of the backfield in his second season. But with Fargas and Michael Bush also in the mix, McFadden will need to avoid injuries and prove that he was worth the No. 4 overall selection in the 2008 NFL Draft. Otherwise, a backfield committee could emerge that would be a constant headache for owners.

In nine of 16 games last season, the Raiders had two or more running backs rush the football eight or more times. The offense also produced just three 100-yard performances on the ground, the best of which came from Bush (177 yards, two touchdowns) against Tampa Bay in the team's regular-season finale. Bush, a talented back in his own right, could end up as McFadden's top handcuff with a solid preseason.

One of the more underrated factors that could help McFadden make an impact this season is the addition of Lorenzo Neal. The fullback was a successful blocker during his time with the Chargers and Ravens, and his presence in the backfield should help a team that finished last season 10th in running offense. That rank looks impressive on the surface, but no rushing team in the top 10 had fewer points or made fewer visits to the end zone. Neal should make life easier for McFadden and open up more chances for him to produce for fantasy leaguers.

Based on his talent and potential in an offense that could make him the centerpiece, McFadden is worth rolling the dice on between Rounds 4 and 6 in most drafts. He's by no means a lock to make a huge fantasy impact (it's hard to trust anyone in Silver & Black), but the Raiders lack of true playmakers on the offensive side of the football should allow McFadden more than his share of opportunities to produce.

Unfortunately for fans of Raider Nation, McFadden is the lone member of the team who'll warrant consideration in the earlier rounds.

Quarterback JaMarcus Russell reported to training camp overweight, further backing the critics who think he's not exactly committed to excellence. In fact, free-agent aquisition Jeff Garcia might have a better chance to see some time under center than you think. Cable was non-committal when asked about the quarterback situation earlier this week, and Russell showing up to camp heavy can't help his image.

The Raiders also lack a wide receiver worth drafting outside of the late rounds. Chaz Schilens and Johnnie Lee Higgins are the favorites to start. Rookie Darrius Heyward-Bey and Javon Walker are also in the mix, but it's hard to expect either to have much worth for owners.

In fact, the lone player with value outside of McFadden is Zach Miller.

A potential breakout candidate, Miller could once again lead the team in receptions and receiving yards like he did in 2008. The Arizona State product is a viable No. 1 fantasy tighr end and could turn out to be a nice bargain in the middle to late rounds.

News and notes

  • » The Indianapolis Star reports that former offensive coordinator Tom Moore has officially returned to the Colts as a consultant. Moore and fellow offensive specialist Howard Mudd will be allowed on the field and in the booth during games and will play a "serious role" according to owner Jim Irsay. That's good news for fantasy owners worried that the loss of Moore would have a negative effect on the value of Peyton Manning.
  • » The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have signed Josh Freeman, the No. 17 overall selection in the 2009 NFL Draft, to a five-year contract. The signing gives him a chance to compete with Luke McCown and Byron Leftwich for the top spot on the depth chart, but don't expect him to make a fantasy impact this season. In fact, Freeman could wind up third in the pecking order when the Bucs open their season against Dallas. He has little value in seasonal formats.
  • » The Tacoma News Tribune reports that Julius Jones is expected to see "the bulk of the carries" for the Seahawks in 2009. T.J. Duckett and Justin Forsett will also see roles in the rushing attack, but Jones appears to be the unquestioned starter. While that news does improve his fantasy value, Jones will lose goal-line work to Duckett and has much to prove before being considered more than a No. 3 fantasy back or flex starter.
  • » Reports out of New Orleans suggest that Reggie Bush and Marques Colston, both coming off microfracture knee surgery, will enter training camp without limitations. The news makes Colston a more attractive borderline No. 1 fantasy wideout in a Saints offense that should remain explosive with Drew Brees at the helm. As for Bush, his recent proneness to injuries and the emergence of Pierre Thomas still makes him a risk in fantasy drafts.
  • » Jets coach Rex Ryan announced this week that Kellen Clemens, not Mark Sanchez, will open training camp as the No. 1 quarterback. This remains an open competition, however, so Clemens is by no means a lock to be under center when the Jets open their season against the Texans at Reliant Stadium. Regardless of the outcome of this depth-chart battle, neither Clemens nor Sanchez will help fantasy owners win a league championship this season.

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