It's now or never for McFadden to prove his fantasy worth

Is this the season that Darren McFadden finally makes a fantasy impact?

That giant sucking sound you hear is coming from the "Black Hole." Not the segment of the Oakland Coliseum stands that the Raiders like to call by that name, but rather the place where the fantasy value of just about any player wearing the Silver & Black in recent years has crossed into oblivion.

If that sounds a bit jaded, it comes only after nearly a decade of futility on offense that annually has sent fantasy owners scurrying to other options. Remember, this is the team that turned Randy Moss into a purely pedestrian fantasy wide receiver in what should have been the prime years of his career.

It's also the team that turned McFadden from a dynamic, multi-faceted rushing-receiving threat in college into a one-dimensional, third-down back in the pros.

Critics point to McFadden's fumbles, to his injury problems, and to his inability to break tackles at the NFL level, and it's hard to refute any of those points.

But close your eyes and imagine McFadden playing for (fill in the blank), and you wonder if things might have been different.

Things are different in Oakland this year, most notably because of the arrival of quarterback Jason Campbell -- or should we say the departure of JaMarcus Russell. Justin Fargas is gone, too, leaving the running game in the hands of McFadden and Michael Bush.

The Raiders' offense figures to be better, although it won't take much to improve on the league's 31st-ranked unit from 2009. There are still a lot of "ifs" when it comes to McFadden's value, though.

If Campbell can prove to be a marked improvement over Russell and Bruce Gradkowski, if a young wide receiver corps reaches some of its potential and takes pressure off the running game, and if Bush doesn't lay claim to the first- and second-down role, then maybe McFadden is an impact player.

That means it's possible this is the year that McFadden fulfills his fantasy potential. But again, there are just too many "ifs" in that equation to warrant spending a very high draft pick on him.

Bottom line: If McFadden is ever going to make a fantasy impact in Oakland, it's going to be this year. But we aren't among the believers.

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