1st Round, Fourth Overall: Raiders Select Darren McFadden


It's time to bring the mood down a little, dim the lights, turn off the laugh track. Think of this as the portion of Comic Relief when Whoopie, Billy, and Robin would drop the shtick and talk seriously about whatever the hell Comic Relief was supposed to benefit.


McFadden came from a rough neighborhood. It was so tough that if they made a movie of it, Samuel L. Jackson would play every single character. Actually, they did make a movie about his neighborhood: the gripping documentary "Gang War: Bangin' in Little Rock." McFadden saw the film and knew many of the on-screen personalities, even though he was just a crumb cruncher when the film was made in 1994. Young Darren was one of 12 children to a drug-addicted mother, living in the kind of neighborhood 50 Cent drives through with the doors locked and the windows up.

McFadden grew up to become one of the greatest football players in Arkansas history. But he hasn't been able to totally transcend his childhood. There have been fights outside piano bars, broken toes outside night clubs, paternity tests and allegations that he's sown more seed than Burpee. Coaches swear he's a good egg (they always do), now-sober mom is proud of her son (they always are), and some of those early paternity tests have come back negative (which never happens on Montell). Still, no one knows if McFadden will become an inspiration to troubled youth or Goodell's Most Wanted, because no one knows what will happen once the signing bonus hits.

What we do know is that McFadden is a rare talent, a less injury-prone version of Adrian Peterson. The Razorbacks built their whole offense around him, designing the Wildhog formation (it was just a dressed up single-wing, but never mind) to exploit his running and passing ability. He's got great speed and instincts with the ball in his hands. He's big, fast, and troubled. A Raider!

And before you think that Oakland is the worst possible place for a troubled kid ... there were pre-draft rumors that the Cowboys would move up to take McFadden. McFadden, Pac-man Jones, and T.O. on one team ... nope, no way that could backfire. The potential for a Dallas douchegasm would be too terrible (or wonderful, for us Internet smart-alecks) to contemplate.

Of course, everything would be just hunky-dory because the Cowboys have Calvin Hill in their front office. Hill, the ex-Ivy League running back, is supposed to play Father Flanagan to all the reprobates Jerry Jones signs. Players are supposedly powerless before his soft-spoken charms. Now, Hill is a great influence, but if called upon to shepherd a flock like that he would need divine benevolence and a hundred arms, like some Hindu god. Not even the NFL's patron saint of perpetual sorrows, Dick Vermeil, dared to play mad scientist with such a combustible chemistry set.

The Raiders don't have Calvin Hill; they have Al Davis' brother, who is running the draft in New York. He's part Fredo Corleone, part Billy Carter, part undertaker. Of course, the Jets fans may just kill him before the first round is over.

Here's hoping this doesn't become a melodrama. Go get 'em, McFadden. Find the holes and steer clear of the piano bars. Leave Bangin' Little Rock in the past where it belongs.