In order to prepare for the NFL draft (and survive the unbearably long offseason), we've decided to check in on this year's draft class from time to time and discuss some of the potential future characters of the League that stand out for some reason or another. To start things off, today, we discuss RB Darren McFadden of Arkansas.
I watch too much TV, and as such I get stuck watching more "Law & Order" than any human being should. As a general rule in life, at any given time, there’s a baby being born, a person dying, and a "Law & Order" episode playing somewhere on TV. I only mention this because there was a particularly good episode on the other day where a priest was put on trial (no, not for that), and he dropped the following line: “We explain away miracles, then doubt the existence of God because there are no miracles.” In a way, he’s right; we live in a society that loves tear down any possibility of the fantastic. Our cynicism is our greatest defense mechanism, but it also brings out our ugliest characteristics whenever someone or something seems to go against the limitations we’ve come to accept in ourselves and those around us.
I readily admit that I’m no different. My first instinct is usually to use my cynicism as a security blanket to keep myself from being disappointed by people or things in the long run. Watching footage of Darren McFadden run makes me realize this. Everyone knows that McFadden has been earmarked for NFL draft stardom from the beginning of this past college football season. His performance this year was nothing short of spectacular, further highlighting his talent and versatility. Still, for some reason, many see his draft status falling far and fast. One analyst went so far as to say that he was no longer even a top 20 draft pick. Granted, given the needs of the teams at the top, McFadden may not be the top three pick he seemed all but guaranteed to become, but I’ve yet to hear a convincing excuse for why he would go from wunderkind to predestined bust over the course of a season through no fault of his own.
I watch the clips of McFadden in action and I think of all the easy answers as to why it won’t work, why he doesn’t make sense. He’s small. He runs too high. His speed won’t translate to The League. All of these things and more swirl around as I watch McFadden juke and fly past defenders in a blur or turn screen passes into highlight reel fodder. Furthermore, he’s doing all of this against defenders that are as close to NFL speed as you’ll find in NCAA ball (I’d take an SEC all star team against last year’s Dolphins any weekend). In my head, it’s all the same; he’s going to get hurt, he’s not going to be able to do these things on the big stage, and he’ll disappoint anyone who gets behind him. It’s the cynicism that always sits on my shoulder as a member of a jaded society, and it won’t let go, and it may be squeezing the life out of the Darren McFadden story before it really begins.
Yet the more I watch McFadden run, the more I can’t help but think that we’re all about to cheat ourselves of the rush that comes with being wrapped up in giddy, awe-inspiring potential. Personally, I’m done letting my baseless certainty of McFadden’s failure get in the way of my plausible fantasy of his jaw-dropping success. So he runs high and could get hurt; it’s football, people get hurt. You can’t stop hoping for the best just because the amount of violence inherent in the sport all but guarantees that some players will inevitably be met with the worst case scenario of career changing injuries. I’m done watching clips of McFadden playing Kung Fu Hustle with defenders and thinking that he can’t possibly do the same in The League. They said the same thing about Adrian Peterson, and one season later we’re all believers in Purple Jesus. Most of all, I’m done searching for reasons to tear my imagination of McFadden’s potential down. He’s a speedy back with great hands who can juke and get physical if the situation calls for it. There really is no reason to think that his physical gifts and field vision that borders on precognition won't make him a great NFL running back. He’s going to continue the Adrian Peterson trend of proving that the feature running back is not a myth that should be ignored, but rather something that only comes along in special years, and therefore that much more valuable when you find it. In short, fuck being a cynic; McFadden makes me feel something, and that’s worth support and, as fragile as it can be, hope.