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Who To Draft: Chris Johnson or Darren McFadden? (2012)

Posted by in Who To Draft on August 26th, 2012 | 1 Comment

Darren McFadden vs. Chris JohsnonWho should I draft with the 9th pick, Darren McFadden or Chris Johnson?

After the top three runningbacks (Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy, and Ray Rice) are off the board, many fantasy owners will be trying to decide between Chris Johnson or Darren McFadden as the next back off the board. Aaron Rodgers, Calvin Johnson, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Matthew Stafford are likely 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 off the board. Your 2012 fantasy football draft will really start to get exciting around the 9th pick and odds are that you’re trying to decide between Chris Johnson and Darren McFadden.

Each back has some concerns going into the 2012 season. Can Darren McFadden stay healthy? Will Chris Johnson rebound from a poor 2011 campaign? Last year was a disappointing season for Chris Johnson who held out throughout the offseason until he landed a huge contract. Johnson saw career lows in yards, touchdowns, and yards-per-carry. Darren McFadden, on the other hand, got off to a great start in 2011 and put up ridiculous numbers in his first four games of the season until going down with a sprained foot in week 7 which kept him out for the remainder of the season.

Let’s start off by comparing the stats.

2011 Stats

Darren McFadden

6 games *
113 carries
614 rushing yards
102 rushing yards/game
5.4 yards/carry
4 rushing TDs
19 receptions
154 receiving yards
22 receiving yards/game
8 receiving yards/reception
1 receiving TDs

* Injured in game 7

Chris Johnson

16 games
262 carries
1,047 rushing yards
65 rushing yards/game
4.0 yards/carry
4 rushing TDs
57 receptions
418 receiving yards
26 receiving yards/game
7.3 receiving yards/reception
0 receiving TDs

2012 Fantasy Projections’s composite rankings has Chris Johnson #10 and Darren McFadden #11 in their top 200. Yahoo’s composite rankings has Darren McFadden #6 and Chris Johnson #8. Both backs should post very similar numbers. I’m anticipating in the neighborhood of 1,200 rushing yards, 300-400 receiving yards, and 8-10 total TDs for each back.

I’m going to give the nod to Darren McFadden for a few reasons. Although his durability is a concern, his breakout performance at the beginning of his 2011 season was jaw-dropping. 150 yards on 22 carries in the season opener, 143 total yards and 2 TDs against the Bills in week 2, 171 yards and 2 TDs against the Jets in week 3, and 123 total yards in week 4 against the Patriots.

In 2011, Darren McFadden was the Raiders offense and the Raiders were a one-dimensional team with Jason Campbell as the starting QB and Darius Heyward-Bey still developing as a WR. Now with Carson Palmer as the starting QB with a full offseason to work the Raiders and the continued development of Darius Heyward-Bey and Denarius Moore, defenses will be forced to respect the Raiders passing game more in 2012 than they did in 2011. That will help open up things for Darren McFadden.

I’m not a big believer in preseason stats, but through 3 games this preseason Johnson’s YPC is concerning. Run DMC’s yards-per-carry is a respectable 4.0 compared to CJ2K’s 2.9. Johnson looked great in his 2nd preseason game, but games 1 and 3 were too reminiscent of last season where Johnson was getting clogged up at the line. Reports indicate that McFadden has rebounded from his foot injury. He’s coming into this season healthy and his burst is back.

On a game-to-game basis, Darren McFadden has been the better player over the last 2 seasons, but McFadden has never played 16 games in a season. If McFadden were to play a full 16 games in 2012, there’s no doubt in my mind that his numbers will shatter Chris Johnson’s. In my opinion, the risk is worth the reward. Another plus for Run DMC — Michael Bush is gone. Bush took several potential TDs away from McFadden over the last few seasons. Run DMC is now the man in Oakland and his TD numbers should improve.

Yahoo Analysis: Chris Johnson vs. Darren McFadden

And the draft pick to make is…

Darren McFadden – Fantasy upside wins the day despite Run DMC’s risk of injury.

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