- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
Most fantasy owners likely disregarded the potentially frightening news that Oakland Raiders running back Mike Goodson suffered a neck injury in practice Tuesday and was taken by stretcher to the hospital. Of course, we hope that Goodson is OK. He was injured on a head-to-head collision with linebacker Philip Wheeler, and according to recent updates things are looking positive.
This is good news not only for Goodson, but perhaps this will bring to light the reason why he matters in fantasy: The most optimistic among us will eagerly select Raiders running back Darren McFadden in the second round -- he's currently being taken in the third round of ESPN average live drafts -- but the fact is durability isn't even close to a strong point with the fellow known as Run-DMC, and the No. 2 guy in Oakland, health willing, is Goodson.
A season ago, McFadden was a fantasy superstar after a month, and then he suffered a foot injury and didn't suit up again after Week 7. Even for a guy with a checkered injury past, this was a tough one. Fantasy owners couldn't drop the guy because hey, he's a potential top-5 option and constantly seemed to be on the verge of coming back, but at the same time nobody seemed to know when he would return. Turns out he didn't return at all. I'm not surprised McFadden is healthy today, in early August. He'll probably be healthy in a month, too. The chances that he's healthy in November, however, are problematic. Health is a skill, too.
This is why Goodson landed in a good place after the March trade from the Carolina Panthers. The Raiders needed a backup with experience after Michael Bush bolted for the Chicago Bears, and while fantasy owners might presume Goodson is irrelevant since he didn't have a rushing attempt in 2011, look back to 2010 when, for a few weeks, he was certainly relevant. Goodson produced consecutive 100-yard rushing games in Weeks 9 and 10 then scored touchdowns in each of the three weeks after that. OK, so he wasn't a fantasy star, he was gone from our rosters quickly, and it was a crowded backfield in Carolina. But it's not the same situation in Oakland.
McFadden is a wonderful talent, but fantasy owners need to balance risk versus reward. I have him at No. 25 overall, one spot behind Adrian Peterson, because for the first time their situations are somewhat comparable. My take is each is worth the third-round pick if I've already secured a top running back I can rely on. Will either of these guys play all 16 games? Will either miss half the season, if not more? We don't really know. McFadden has averaged 4.8 yards per rush in 553 career rushing attempts, and he starred in 2010 over 13 games, with nearly 1,700 total yards and 10 touchdowns. He could be Arian Foster, or better, but let's be honest, last season's 614 rushing yards was the second-best total in his four years in the NFL.
Goodson certainly seems like the natural handcuff here, though young speedster Taiwan Jones is in the picture. While neither is as talented as Bush, the opportunity is the luring factor. Bush is a bigger running back than most, and he totaled nearly 1,400 total yards and scored eight touchdowns in 2011. I think he's being a bit overrated in drafts this season since Matt Forte is the clear starter, but in a touchdown-heavy format, go for it. Goodson is more of a power back than Jones, but unless a free agent such as Ryan Grant or Cedric Benson ends up in Oakland -- nothing has happened despite rumors of this for months -- this is what is backing up the brittle McFadden.
It should be noted that Goodson missed much of 2011 with a severe hamstring injury, and Jones is currently battling a hamstring problem, so it's not like either of them is a lock to flourish, but there just doesn't seem to be much else in camp. Fullback Marcel Reece can catch the football and, well, that's about it for fantasy value. Lonyae Miller is still in the picture. If Goodson's neck injury keeps him out of action for more than a week, one would assume the Raiders have to look to add depth, and that player could leapfrog over Goodson and Jones to a nice spot.
For now Goodson is going 175th in ESPN average live drafts, in the same area as fellow reserves Brandon Jacobs, Tim Hightower and Rashad Jennings. That makes perfect sense to me, but I'd move him up if I had chosen McFadden earlier. Remember, this is McFadden's fifth NFL season. We'd all love for him to play every week and do great things, but the more realistic assessment is that just like the past few seasons with Bush and Justin Fargas before him, someone else is going to see opportunity. Tuesday's injury notwithstanding, I still think Goodson is that guy.