After all, he had already made a strong impression at last month’s NFL Combine. What more could the running back do at Arkansas’ first Pro Day?
As it turned out, Tuesday was simply another chance for NFL scouts and general managers to meet with McFadden and see why he’ll likely be a top 10 pick in April’s NFL Draft.
“At times, it can get nerve-racking because you know your under a close microscope. They’re critiquing everything you do, every little footstep you take,” McFadden said during a news conference afterward.
“So it’s something that when you go out there and work out for a team, you want to do the very best that you can. But if you go out there trying too hard, you may hurt yourself.”
McFadden likely did nothing to hurt his draft status during his brief workout in front of representatives from every NFL team, including the general managers of the New York Jets, New York Giants and Carolina Panthers.
McFadden decided to keep his workout to a minimum, opting not to run the 40-yard dash. There was no reason for him to after impressing teams by running a blistering time of 4.33 seconds at the NFL Combine.
Instead, the two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up ran the shuttle drill, which required him to sprint from one line on the field to another and then back. He also darted through cones while holding a football to his chest. And he bench-pressed 225 pounds 13 times, at least two reps fewer than he had hoped.
“I don’t feel good about it, me personally,” McFadden said of weightlifting portion. “I feel like I could have done better.”
The results of McFadden’s other drills weren’t released to the media. But ESPN NFL analyst Chris Mortensen, who attended Arkansas’ Pro Day, said the running back didn’t hurt his draft stock at all.
“Darren didn’t have to do anything today. ... Teams that are going to have an excuse not to take Darren, they’ve got their excuse built in. They’re not going to take him,” Mortensen said. “Teams that want him will take him. He’s going to go somewhere between (pick) four and eight.”
The Jets, with the sixth pick, have shown a particular interest in McFadden. The Little Rock native reportedly met with Jets officials last week in Fayetteville, and Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum attended Tuesday’s Pro Day.
Meanwhile, The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Bears coach Lovie Smith had lunch with McFadden and former Arkansas running back Felix Jones on Monday. Interestingly, Smith was the only NFL head coach to watch the former Razorbacks go through a handful of drills on Tuesday morning.
“I only go out to a couple of places, so there are quite a few athletes here (at Arkansas) that can step up to the next level and contribute right away,” said Smith, who couldn’t speak specifically about individual players. “We, of course going 7-9 (last season), could use a little bit of help, so we’re here.”
Mortensen also said Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has discussed the possibility of trading up to draft McFadden, no matter what the Arkansas alum might say publicly.
The biggest concerns NFL teams appear to have about McFadden is his character. He was involved in a second incident at a Little Rock bar in January.
But McFadden said after his workout that he has been very open with NFL teams about the situation, adding that he takes full responsibility for his actions. Still, the character questions surprise him.
“The people that know me know I’m a great kid. I put myself in a bad situation a couple of times, but it’s something that really doesn’t concern me much at all,” McFadden said. “But it’s a great motivation to me. It drives me to work harder.”