In the weeks leading up to the 2008 NFL Draft (April 26-27), BR.com will offer a look into the top prospects by position. This week, running backs are up. Arkansas' Darren McFadden is spotlighted.
It may have been a month ago, but one memory of the NFL Combine is impossible to forget.
Flat-screen televisions occupied the four corners of a bustling media room in Indianapolis' downtown convention center, all tuned to the NFL Network's exclusive coverage of the workouts on the RCA Dome field.
While the TVs typically droned on without anyone paying attention throughout the four-day event, all eyes drifted to the sets when Arkansas' Darren McFadden stepped up for his first 40-yard dash attempt.
The anxious silence was broken with a half gasp/half cheer once the blur of a running back crossed the finish line.
"Whoa!" shouted the horde as 4.27 seconds flashed across the screen.
Even though that time was changed to an official 4.33 mark - still one of the fastest clockings in Combine history - McFadden made his statement loud and clear.
"I feel like I am the best player in the draft," he said that weekend.
Whether McFadden goes No. 1 overall certainly remains to be seen, but judging by his February showcase, the 20-year-old at least cemented his status as the alpha dog of runners.
It's not as if McFadden didn't already make a case for himself through a brilliant three-year career at Arkansas, however.
Coming out of Pulaski Oak Grove (Little Rock, Ark.) High School, McFadden was ranked the state's best player by Rivals.com and earned a berth on the *Parade *All-America team.
And he didn't disappoint once he got to college.
A two-time Doak Walker Award winner, McFadden rushed 785 times for 4,590 yards and 41 touchdowns. The multi-purpose threat also caught 46 passes for 385 yards and two scores and completed 14 of 22 passes for 205 yards and an additional seven touchdowns.
Training under Olympic gold medalist sprinter Michael Johnson before the Combine, McFadden set himself up for his blazing performance.
Still, he acknowledges that off-field issues including a scuffle at a bar (as an underage patron) and reported paternity suits can tarnish one's image. McFadden, who answered questions with "Yes, sirs" and "No, sirs," expects an onslaught of inquiries regarding his character as he goes through the interview process with teams near the top of the draft.
"I know I'm going to hear a lot of different questions," he said. "I'm going to hear things from the reason why I get up early to the different incidents I've had outside of nightclubs.
"I know I put myself in a bad situation I shouldn't have been in, and I take full responsibility for it."
McFadden also knows that there isn't much else he can do to prove his worth after his production at running back, wideout and quarterback, a spot he regularly assumed in the Razorbacks' "Wildcat" formation.
"I can do a lot of different things. I feel like I'm a very versatile player," he explained. "I can go out there and line up at receiver, I can line up in the backfield and block, line up back there and run, I can throw a pass if you need me to.
"If I had to, I could play defense."
It's pretty clear that whatever club pulls the trigger on McFadden, the 6-foot-1, 211-pounder will only line up on the offensive side of the ball, where he's been compared to Adrian Peterson for his upright, striding running style and LaDainian Tomlinson for his versatility.
Could he put up Tomlinson type numbers as a rookie? Or that of Peterson, the reigning Rookie of the Year that set an NFL record last year with 296 rushing yards in a single game?
"I feel like if I go and do all the work that I should and put in the right work, I could have the type of season he did," said McFadden.
It might be another bold statement, but as seen before, McFadden has the tendency to make those.