Speed has always been the most important attribute for Davis. Sometimes, he seems to forget that the player should also be a good football player. As recently as 2005, he made a draft-day trade to move up to select speedy cornerback Fabian Washington, a notable bust who was traded Sunday.
There is no such doubt about McFadden as a football player. Yes, the Raiders had more pressing needs on both sides of the line, but McFadden is a great pick. When you have a chance to get a great player, you take him, regardless of need.
The Raiders have good running backs, but none of them can change a game as McFadden can. One of those backs, Dominic Rhodes, was released Monday.
Despite their need for an upgrade on the offensive line, the Raiders are far better at blocking for the run than pass protecting, which will work to McFadden’s benefit. Even the newly acquired Kwame Harris, who was famed for his “look out” blocks with the 49ers, is an accomplished run blocker.
Arkansas’ offensive system did not utilize McFadden’s receiving ability, but he demonstrated that to NFL scouts and coaches in pre-draft workouts, so convincingly that after the selection Saturday, Lane Kiffin talked of flanking McFadden and using him on deep patterns. That is straight out of the Raiders’ successful past because the system Davis brought to Oakland in 1963 utilized Clem Daniels and Hewritt Dixon in that fashion during that decade.
McFadden will do much to jump- start an Oakland offense that badly needs that, and he will take a lot of pressure off quarterback JaMarcus Russell.
Traditionally, running backs have been the quickest to make their mark in the NFL because there is relatively little to learn. That, too, was an important point for Davis. His offseason moves had the smell of desperation because he realizes the time is growing short for him to make one last return to the winning stage. His physical condition is deteriorating, and he seldom appears at Raiders news conferences now.
In the wake of that bizarre episode earlier this year, when Davis sent Kiffin a letter of resignation which he wanted the coach to sign, there was concern that Davis had lost it mentally as well. But Davis has long had his moments of bizarre actions and he soon showed, with a flurry of free-agent signings, that he was still quite capable of making decisions. Those moves — plus the trade for cornerback DeAngelo Hall — carry some risk, but if they all pan out, the Raiders could be significantly better.
There is no such doubt about the McFadden pick. There were questions about his off-the-field problems early, but closer examination showed a young man who grew up in an area of Arkansas that is notorious for youth gangs. He was protecting family members and he’s learned his lesson. As Kiffin noted, he has never missed a team meeting or practice.
McFadden will bring a load of talent to Oakland. And, oh, yes, did I mention, he’ll also bring a sprinter’s speed?