Raiders vs. Broncos: Is Darren McFadden a Must-Start for Fantasy Owners?

When the Oakland Raiders visit the Denver Broncos on Monday night, there's just one thing fantasy owners should know.

That is, to start Raiders running back Darren McFadden under any and all circumstances. 

Do it with confidence. 

The Raiders back burst onto the scene as one of the better fantasy options at his position last year, totaling nearly 1,700 total yards and 10 touchdowns (three receiving).

Despite a few disappointing seasons to start his NFL career, McFadden has now been a top-round pick in most fantasy drafts because of his performances last season. He's a solid No. 2 back on good teams and a borderline No. 1 for owners who went receiver-heavy to start their drafts. 

The statistics say McFadden should get off to a fast start in 2011.

In six career games against the Broncos, he has rushed for 487 yards and five touchdowns—far-and-away his best totals against any NFL team.

That has a lot to do with playing Denver twice a year, but his averages (82.1 yards, one touchdown) against the Broncos are also encouraging. McFadden also has 11 catches for 98 yards and a score in those six games.

McFadden will again be the lead back in Oakland this year, even with the emergence of rookie Taiwan Jones. The Raiders offense still struggles to compete when throwing the ball, which means they'll once again lean on their running backs in 2011 to move the football. That should give McFadden plenty of opportunities, especially early, to get off to a strong start.

Since he is facing the Broncos, it should be safe to assume McFadden will post elite fantasy numbers in Week 1. In two games in 2010, McFadden posted 165 yards and three touchdowns in Week 5 and 119 yards in Week 16. I'd expect his numbers to be somewhere in the middle of those two marks this week. 

Owners probably wouldn't think twice about benching McFadden in the first place, but ...

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