Running back Darren McFadden is the Raiders' most fantasy-friendly player and, outside of perhaps Carson Palmer, the team's most important asset. He is a game-breaking player who can carry the team on his back for long stretches and allows the Raiders to effectively execute a ground-and-pound clock-sapping attack. He has a combination of size, speed and power rivaled only by Minnesota's Adrian Peterson and is an excellent receiver out of the backfield. What can the Raiders expect from him this year?
Last Season: McFadden had an excellent start to the 2011 campaign, gaining 614 rushing yards in only six full games and scoring four touchdowns. He also added 154 receiving yards and a receiving touchdown. In the first half of the Week 7 game against the Chiefs, McFadden suffered a Lisfranc foot fracture and would miss the rest of the season. Reports were that had the Raiders made the playoffs, McFadden may have been able to play, but that did not occur. McFadden's loss was a huge blow to the team, and they went 4-5 without him, while losing some winnable games to the Dolphins, Lions and Chargers. A win in any one of those games would have given the Raiders the division crown.
Big Question: Can McFadden stay healthy? In his finest season, 2010, McFadden still missed two games with a hamstring injury. He has never stayed on the field for an entire 16-game season. That being said, a Lisfranc fracture is more or less a freak accident and is in no way an indication of McFadden being injury prone. It would be an indication that he is unlucky, if one were inclined to believe in that sort of thing. By all accounts, McFadden is currently healthy and in good shape for the start of training camp. His health or lack thereof will be one of the major factors that determine Oakland's season. With him they are a top team that can handle their schedule; without him they are a middling team with an air-it-out mentality,forced into a risky strategy that will force the issue and make mistakes, putting pressure on a defense that is learning a new system.
Projection: There is no logical reason to project that McFadden will get hurt this year, but conversely there is no logical reason to suppose that he will remain healthy the entire year. McFadden is and always has been a crapshoot. In previous seasons the Raiders have been fortunate enough to employ Michael Bush as the primary backup, meaning when McFadden went down they still had a starting-caliber RB to plug into the lineup. This year, the backups are currently Mike Goodson and Taiwan Jones. Neither are bad players, but neither have shown the ability to dictate the pace of a game like Bush could.
Should McFadden remain healthy, he will likely gain close to 1,400 yards from scrimmage and score 10 touchdowns. Should he not remain healthy, the Raiders will scuffle to a poor record in a tough division and may look to draft McFadden's replacement in the upcoming draft. I hear that Marcus Lattimore kid is pretty good.