As for his background, McFadden said, "Football was an escape growing up in tough environment: A lot of bad things were laid out in front of me, and at any point in time in life I could have taken the wrong road. But I felt like I always stayed on the right road and did the positive things."
One thing for sure: McFadden thinks highly of his own ability. Asked if he is the best player in the draft, he stated simply, "I feel like I am the best player in the draft. I can do a lot of different things. I feel like I'm a very versatile player. 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. But like if I had to, I could play defense."
McFadden on being a receiver: "I feel like I have great hands because I played a lot of different positions growing up. I've caught a lot of balls through high school and things, so I feel like I have great hands."
McFadden on throwing the football: "It's something I love to do, line up behind the center and take those direct snaps. Growing up, I played quarterback a lot, and it's just something I love to do, be back there and be able to call the plays. I don't know if there'd be any room for it in the NFL, but if a coach wanted me to do it, I'm going to do it.
"(LaDainian) Tomlinson did it: He's a great player, going back there and throwing touchdown passes like he's a quarterback. It's just a great thing to see a running back do that.
McFadden's bottom line? "I feel like I'm a tough guy. You could have me in on first down or you could have me in on fourth-and-1. I can get long yards for you or I can get short yards for you."
Appalachian State wide receiver Dexter Jackson is not physically imposing at 5-feet-9 1/4, 185 pounds, even in the oversized Combine workout gear. But he really turned heads in January's all-star games with his quickness, hands and crisp routes. When asked about how he thought he would run, Jackson guessed "between 4.28 and 4.33". It's not surprising he would be among the fastest players here, but if he runs sub-4.3, he could move into the top 75 like Kansas State receiver Yamon Figurs last spring.
Texas Tech's Danny Amendola is thankful for the success of former Tech receiver Wes Welker at New England because he "paved the way for little slot receivers out there." Although Amendola is not as strong as Welker, his quickness and hands are reminiscent enough of the Pro Bowler that his draft stock will undoubtedly benefit in the end.
Donnie Avery could run the fastest 40-yard dash time this week, with a sub-4.3 within reach. He stated that his best time so far was a 4.25 while training in January. And this is no tiny receiver at 5-11, 192 pounds. Unfortunately, he tweaked his hamstring on Friday but will consider running "if I feel good, if my hamstrings feel good."
Iowa State's Todd Blythe hopes to debunk the thought that he's a 6-5, 214-pound possession receiver who runs in the 4.6 range. "If I can run in the 4.4 range like I have lately, I think I can move up a few spots." He said he has heard that he could go anywhere from the third to sixth rounds. That may sound like a large range, but it is very typical for players likely to be picked in the middle of the draft. That's why Blythe's work with a speed school (Parisi in New Jersey) before the draft is crucial to get that 4.6 40 to a 4.48. That 10th or more of a second could push him into the top 100.
Texas' 6-4, 216-pound Limas Sweed has a chance to go in the first round, and knows a successful Combine could put him there. "Without a doubt" he will run here in Indianapolis, although it's not clear whether he will test the wrist he injured during his senior year, losing more than half the season. "It's my agents' (Ben Dogra/Tom Condon) decision. I'll just take his advice and trust him." He noted that he has been catching passes from Matt Ryan while working out at Athletes' Performance Institute in Phoenix, Arizona.
FLIP FOR THE FALCONS
The Atlanta Falcons won the third overall selection in a coin flip held at the Westin hotel near the Indianapolis Convention Center. They beat out the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs, who shared the same 4-12 regular-season records and opponents' winning percentage. The Raiders select fourth, as they had a worse record against common opponents than Kansas City.
In this year's draft, the difference between those picks is fairly small. Obviously the Chiefs and Raiders would have preferred to win the flip, but it's not likely to affect the chances of getting an excellent player that fills a need.
They can choose from defensive tackles Glenn Dorsey (LSU) and Sedrick Ellis (USC), defensive end Chris Long (Virginia), offensive tackle Jake Long (Michigan, and running back Darren McFadden (Arkansas). Quarterback Matt Ryan (Boston College) and defensive end/linebacker Vernon Gholston (Ohio State) may also inject themselves into the top five with solid workouts and interviews at the Combine and their pro days.
The three teams will rotate, along with the New York Jets, throughout the rest of the draft. The Jets were not part of the coin flip process because their opponents' winning percentage was higher than the other three 4-12 teams.
If Pacman Jones is to be able to return to the NFL, he won't find out until just before the start of training camp. But a decision by Commissioner Roger Goodell this week makes it appear unlikely he will be reinstated.
Jones was suspended for one year on April, 10, 2007, but Goodell had said his case would be reviewed after the Pro Bowl. Jones recently reached a plea agreement on charges of felony obstruction resulting from a confrontation with police in Feb. 2006.
Goodell said Jones' case won't be reviewed until just before training, and Jones is no longer allowed to work out at the Tennessee Titans' facility.
COLT UNDER THE MICROSCOPE
--Colt Brennan was one of the more popular interviews in the media room in Indianapolis on Friday. Partially because of his extreme productivity in Hawaii, but mostly because people wanted to ask about the question marks on his resume. He had dropped down to 185 pounds at the Senior Bowl due to the stomach flu. He weighed in at 207 pounds Friday, through eating and supplements, so he seemed vindicated. Brennan was also caught up in the various off-field incidents at Colorado that caused an upheaval in the athletic department. He said he was at fault for "putting myself in that situation" but that he learned life isn't fair because he "wasn't given a fair opportunity by the media." Then there's the talk about his being a system quarterback, but he feels "those types of criticisms come from the media and other people, but when I do the interview process coaches have a lot of respect for Coach (June) Jones and the offense he ran and what we did there."
NFL teams don't shy away from selecting players with eligibility remaining, but most club personnel wish most players would stay in school. Teams have to scramble to get information on players after they declare in mid-January. Said Eagles general manager Tom Heckert, "We've always said we'd like to see these guys stay in school for another year for just that reason alone, because they don't have as much tape. To be honest, most of these guys do need another year, we'd like to see them another year, just because they haven't played a whole lot. There are some guys that started as true freshmen, but that's rare nowadays, in college football."
Heckert did acknowledge those players deepen the draft.
"It strengthens the draft, just because there's 53 more guys," Heckert said. "The juniors that come out are early-round guys, or at least they think they are, or they wouldn't be coming out."
--Michigan receiver Adrian Arrington cited the departure of head coach Lloyd Carr and especially the transfer of signal-caller Ryan Mallett in his decision to leave Michigan early: "really, there's no quarterback out there right now."
--Vanderbilt underclassman receiver Earl Bennett talked with his position coach, and decided "there was nothing else I could prove on the field". ... Martellus Bennett, a junior tight end from Texas A&M, said he "prayed a lot" and "it was a family decision."
--And Southern California guard Chilo Rachal felt he "had to go," citing the failing health of his mother (cancer) and father (two hernias) and the fact they have no insurance.
--Running back Rashard Mendenhall smartly decided to leave Illinois because he "hasn't taken a beating" like the seniors. But he also recognized the decision as a "double-edged sword" because he lacked the year of experience.
--By contrast, Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm said he learned from returning for his senior year, even though he is predicted to go lower in the first round than he likely would have last April. "It was very valuable. And I wouldn't go back and change a thing," he said.
The year spent under a different coach after Bobby Petrino left for the Atlanta Falcons will actually help him in the NFL as he learned how to deal with adversity and learning a new system. Brohm primarily credits Petrino and brother/former NFL quarterback/current coach Jeff as preparing him to play quarterback in the pros.
"Since I've been young, he's been trying to groom me to be an NFL quarterback, go through those types of drills and NFL-type reads," Brian said of Jeff. "We've been discussing this stuff since I was in high school. It's a huge advantage for me. And it was a huge advantage for me going through college."
Southern California tight end Kellen Davis is one of the few prospects in this draft who could potentially play offense and/or defense. The size and speed he uses as a solid receiver transfers as a pass rush specialist on defense.
During 2007 spring practices, Davis said coaches asked a "backup tight end to do some pass rush drills to see if he might be able to help out over there. I kind of just tagged along. I had a few sacks against the scout team.
"Coaches kind of let me run in and out of there during practice in fall camp. The first game week of this past season, they let me get some reps on defense and let me play in the game."
He had six tackles and two sacks during the season. According to Davis, scouts have asked him about playing defensive end and tight end, and he's open to it: "I wouldn't let my position define me," Davis said. "I think I have a good chance of playing both. For me, it doesn't matter. As long as I'm playing on Sunday, it doesn't matter to me."
MARTELLUS ON ... MARTELLUS
Keep an eye on Texas A&M tight end Martellus Bennett. Not only as a player but as a talker. He entertained reporters at the Combine, saying, "I couldn't talk that well until I was 7. Ever since then I haven't stopped talking. ... I'm running a million miles per hour now." Bennett played sparingly in two seasons for the Texas A&M basketball team, but has developed into a versatile tight end.
"I would say football is my wife, and basketball is my mistress," Bennett said. He then added, "I think a lot of people have questioned my maturity, because I'm so young, coming out as a junior. I know a lot of people think I'm goofy -- which I am -- but I am mature. I think a lot of guys want to see how mature I am. I think they all know I can play, and I can run, so I think it's more a maturity thing."
--"That's something I feel I could improve on and get stronger. But heart, dedication and my will to be great is something I have." -- Cal wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who measured in at 5-9, 169 on Friday.
--"It gets a little old, answering the same questions over and over again." -- Florida receiver Andre Caldwell on the NFL Draft process. He added he enjoys the process because "every kid in the country doesn't get an opportunity to do what I'm doing."
--"I never really did anything on the board, as far as writing or whatever. I mean, I know it. I know how to draw up coverages and stuff like that, but I wasn't expecting to do it." -- Oklahoma wide receiver Malcolm Kelly on being surprised he was asked to draw up his favorite play in college on a white board, along with coverages and adjustments, during interviews with teams.
NFLDraftScout.com Senior NFL Writers Howard Balzer and Senior
Analyst Chad Reuter contributed to this report.