Make no mistake about it

It would be foolish and downright idiotic to call the Raiders' decision to use their first-round pick in last month's draft on Arkansas running back Darren McFadden a mistake. Only a crackpot would argue against using drafting a player most experts and scouts agree is headed for a phenomenal NFL career.

I know of just such a foolish, idiotic crackpot. I stare at his face in the mirror every morning.

It's not that there is anything wrong with McFadden. He is without question one of the most uniquely gifted running backs to come out of college in some time. Some have argued he's the best college running back to hit the pros since a certain Vincent ‘Bo' Jackson donned the Silver and Black in the late ‘80s.

McFadden is a multi-talented athlete who has been a human highlight film ever since he first stepped foot onto a college campus. A two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up during his three years at Arkansas, McFadden broke the school's career rushing record and finished with the second-highest rushing total in SEC history.

All of it perfectly commendable and worthy of being one of the top picks in the draft. It just shouldn't have been Oakland's. Glenn Dorsey, who in some people's eyes could be the next coming of Warren Sapp, seemed a better fit.

Since 2002 when they made their last appearance in the playoffs, the Raiders have finished no better than 22nd against the run. Time and time again opponents have gouged the defense by simply pounding the rock up the middle, meeting little or no resistance.

That both Dorsey and McFadden were available when the Raiders went on the clock was stunning in itself considering they were almost unanimously considered the top two players in the draft. It was even more stunning when Commissioner Roger Goodell stepped to the podium and announced McFadden's name as Oakland's pick.

I wrote as much on our website shortly after: Dorsey was there for the taking, too. It was as if the ball had been placed on the tee and all the Raiders had to do was swing for the fences. They did and the whiff can be heard for miles.

But Al Davis, the Raiders' legendary 78-year-old boss, doesn't care what anyone else thinks. In McFadden, he sees Jackson blazing down the sidelines in Seattle and streaking into a tunnel. He sees Napoleon Kaufman ripping apart the Denver Broncos for a team record 227 yards. He sees Marcus Allen running one way then somehow cutting back and breaking off a long touchdown run in the Super Bowl. It was just too much to pass up.

Or was it?

Oakland already had a fully stocked backfield to begin with. They re-signed Justin Fargas to a $12 million contract in the offseason to go with LaMont Jordan, Michael Bush and, at the time at least, Dominic Rhodes.

The Raiders also employ the zone-blocking schemes made popular in Denver. For years the Broncos have plugged no-name backs into their system and been successful, primarily because of the play of the offensive line and the blocking systems in place.

Line coach Tom Cable, who learned the schemes from former Bronco line guru Alex Gibbs while both men were in Atlanta, took what was essentially a mediocre offensive line and squeezed the league's sixth-ranked running attack out of it, a testament to the success of the zone-blocking system.

Jordan was the league's second-leading rusher before he got hurt. Fargas went over 1,000 yards for the first time in his career before he got hurt. And Rhodes went over 100 yards in each of the final two games of the regular season when he was pressed into a starting role.

The shelf life of an NFL running back is also incredibly short, which is why only a handful of teams operate one-back systems and instead spread the workload out. Unless McFadden is indeed the second coming of Bo, don't expect things to be any different in Oakland.

Head coach Lane Kiffin, who before the draft was adamant the team had no interest in drafting a running back and instead talked about the more pressing needs for a run-stopper, said after the first round the Raiders resisted drafting Dorsey because they'd have to play him out of position since they already have Tommy Kelly penciled in at the three-technique hole.

But the Raiders could have easily taken Dorsey and slid Kelly back outside to defensive end, where Oakland still has a vacancy.

Let's not forget that Kelly, whom Davis made the highest-paid interior defensive lineman in the NFL history in the offseason, is also coming off a serious knee injury. If there are any lingering effects, Oakland could be in serious trouble along the defensive front.

The Raiders doled out more than $120 million in the offseason to improve their secondary with the additions of cornerback DeAngelo Hall and safety Gibril Wilson. But if the run defense doesn't take an unforeseen dramatic turnaround, Hall, Wilson and all the rest of Oakland's defensive backs could become non-factors.

Two years ago when the Raiders offense was so terrible under former offensive coordinator Tom Walsh, opposing teams were content to score once or twice then go about trying to milk the clock. Oakland finished with the league's No. 1-ranked pass defense but that was a misnomer since opponents rarely threw and instead ran the ball to work the clock.

Oakland has a more creative offense now than it did under Walsh but several questions remain and there's the nagging fear that the same thing that happened in 2006 could happen again in ‘08.

And if that wasn't enough, think about this: Dorsey wound up going to Kansas City with the fifth pick and now gets to line up opposite McFadden and the Raiders twice each season. That alone will keep the debate going for years.

The view from here, though, is pretty clear. McFadden, for all his skills and abilities, should have gone elsewhere.

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