Running back Darren McFadden turned in a more than admirable NFL career. He played nearly 10 seasons, rushed for over 1,000 yards twice and was, at one time, billed as a future superstar. There is no shame in that resume.
And yet, McFadden once seemed like he’d become so much more.
Rewind it all the way back to the 2010 NFL regular season. The Oakland Raiders weren’t very good; they were more mediocre. That year ended with an 8-8 record. But McFadden developed into a major bright spot, the kind that would shift their fortunes. In just his third season, he carried the ball more than 213 times and racked up 1,1157 rushing yards to go with seven touchdowns. He also added another 500-plus yards and three touchdowns as a pass-catcher.
That type of offensive versatility was more uncommon back in 2010 than it is now. McFadden wasn’t quite an anomaly, but he was pretty damn close. He sported this combination of power and finesse; he was someone the Raiders could run through a brick wall once inside the red zone but also torch defenses when catching passes and juking in space.
Superstardom wasn’t just the hope at this time. It was McFadden’s consensus trajectory. But then the 2011 regular season rolled around, and everything changed.
McFadden suffered a Lisfranc foot injury during the Raiders’ seventh game of the year and missed the rest of the campaign. Though he entered 2012 training camp talking about how he was ready to regain his previous form, he never truly did.
That year, McFadden mustered just 707 yards on 216 attempts. Then, in 2013, he ran for just 379 yards on 114 attempts while appearing in just 10 games. While he played in all 16 games the following season, including 10 as a starter, he was not afforded serious volume. He finished with over 534 yards on a mere 155 rushing attempts.
Leaving the Raiders that summer proved to be the best thing for him. He landed with the Dallas Cowboys and went onto top 1,000 rushing yards for the second time in his career during the 2015 season. But the good vibes lasted only so long. Injuries limited him to just four appearances over the next four years. He’d play his last NFL down in the 2017 season.
Injuries are fickle in this way. One early-career setback ended up costing McFadden a world of momentum. He was never the same superstar prospect, and the Raiders never recovered from losing such a promising outlook.