Darren McFadden turns 29 years old this August. As a regular human he is just entering the prime years in his life, as a pro football player he is nearing the end. That is no reason for the Dallas Cowboys to let go of the team's leading rusher of 2015 however. Coming off the second 1,000 yard season of his career, McFadden has generated interest on the trade market. But the Cowboys should forego the trade talk and keep McFadden around for the final year of his contract.
Back in May, Dallas used the fourth-overall pick on running back Ezekiel Elliott. That was a clear sign that McFadden's days as the lead back in Big D are over. He had a good run in 2015 with 1,089 yards and three touchdowns, but in the end the Cowboys decided to get younger and more athletic with the selection of Elliott. Now it is up to Run DMC to mentor young Run EZE.
Back in 2008 McFadden was the number four pick in the NFL draft by the Oakland Raiders. As such he certainly understands the expectations Elliott will be facing in his rookie year. McFadden ran for only 499 yards in his first season. In his seven years in Oakland he exceeded 1,000 yards rushing only once and appeared in more than 12 games just twice.The bar for Zeke is set much higher, and McFadden and fellow vet Alfred Morris can help him get over it.
Morris is well versed in the Cowboys zone running scheme, and Elliott would be wise to watch him closely. McFadden can teach the rookie more than Xs and Os however. McFadden's NFL career has been full of challenges. He has missed more than his share of games due to injuries and he played what should have been the prime of his career behind some rather suspect offensive lines. Despite the adversity he has faced, DMC has remained a humble and hard-working football player. More than anything else, McFadden can pass along to his young teammate what it means to be a professional.
Darren McFadden was the fourth-leading rusher in the NFL last season, even though he started the year at number two on the depth chart. He can still be counted on to help move the ball in 2016. But the biggest reason the Cowboys should keep him around for the final year of his contract is what he can mean for Ezekiel Elliott's long-term future. The one thing he can't teach is playoff experience. Perhaps he and Elliott can earn that together in 2016.