ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Lane Kiffin readily admits that running back was not a primary need for the Oakland Raiders in the NFL draft.
Even though the Raiders are pretty well-stocked in the backfield, a player with the dynamic talents of Darren McFadden proved too tempting to pass up. Oakland selected the two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up with the fourth pick in the draft Saturday, giving last year's No. 1 overall pick, quarterback JaMarcus Russell, a potential gamebreaker on offense.
"I knew months ago that this was the guy that we had to have, and we had to figure out a way to get him," Kiffin said. "Hopefully, he was going to fall to us. ... Fortunately, he was still available, and in the end we got everybody on the same page. We're all really excited."
Considered by many scouts as the most talented player in the draft, McFadden has been compared by Kiffin to 2005 Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush, who starred at Southern California when Kiffin was the Trojans' offensive coordinator.
McFadden ran for 4,590 yards and 41 touchdowns in three seasons for Arkansas, averaging 5.8 yards per carry. He also showed off his passing skills with seven touchdown passes and caught 46 passes for a team that did not use its running backs as receivers very often.
"I like the way he uses his running backs," McFadden said about Kiffin. "When he was at USC he moved his running backs around a lot. I just love the way he does that, I feel it's something I can bring to Oakland, being a versatile player, that I can move around and give them a different style."
Kiffin talked before the draft about how the Raiders were stocked at running back after re-signing Justin Fargas to a $12 million, three-year contract earlier in the offseason, renegotiating Dominic Rhodes' contract, and with Michael Bush, who missed his rookie season recovering from a broken leg. LaMont Jordan is also on the roster but likely will be gone before training camp.
Kiffin said McFadden complements Fargas and Rhodes well and can be used in a two-back set with either back, out wide as a receiver or at tailback.
While McFadden has some similarities with Reggie Bush in terms of his versatility, he is a more accomplished inside runner and might be better suited to the rigors of the NFL.
Reggie Bush has struggled a bit his first two seasons, averaging only 3.7 yards per carry for New Orleans. Kiffin said he has to be careful not to use McFadden in too many different situations early as he develops in the NFL.
"You get so excited about these guys, and you start doing all these things with them, and they don't get really good at anything," Kiffin said. "The last thing we want to do is do too much, where he's not becoming a great running back back there in the tailback position. What else can we look at? But we want to make sure we use him there first, and we don't put him in a situation where he's not developing there."
But the Raiders gave more than $18 million in guaranteed money to Tommy Kelly to play the three-technique tackle position, and Kiffin said he didn't want to draft Dorsey that high and then move him to nose tackle.
McFadden has faced some character questions about his past. He was involved in a couple off-the-field incidents that raised concerns, including a fight in 2006 outside a club near his mother's Little Rock, Ark., home. McFadden injured his toe that night -- luckily for the Razorbacks, he healed quickly. He was also was briefly handcuffed earlier this year during another altercation at a bar, then released after he calmed down.
Kiffin said he was satisfied because McFadden owned up to his mistakes and assured the Raiders that he had learned from them.
"They did a lot of research on me," McFadden said. "They talked to everyone, and asked questions about the type of guy Darren McFadden is. And the people they talked to, everyone that knows me, told them Darren McFadden's a great guy. That off the field, I made mistakes, and it was nothing they had to be concerned with."
Barring a trade, Oakland's next pick won't come until the fourth round on Sunday. The Raiders have only five picks, having traded away selections in the second, third and fifth rounds.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press