Tailback Darren McFadden, the University of Arkansas star runner who finished as the Heisman Trophy runner-up in each of the past two seasons, will forgo his final season of college eligibility and enter the 2008 NFL draft.
McFadden officially announced his decision Monday.
"When I was growing up, I dreamed of playing for the
Razorbacks," McFadden said. "Now, the time has come for me to
pursue another dream of mine -- playing in the NFL."
Multiple sources said McFadden's father, Graylon McFadden, dispatched the appropriate paperwork to the NFL office early last week. The decision by one of the college game's most electrifying performers to leave school a year early and pursue a professional career was hardly unexpected.
Graylon McFadden denied that was the case on Saturday.
"I hate to be saying anything because all these false stories
and everything are floating around,'' he told The Associated Press. "But no I didn't -- and that's all
I've got to say."
League and team officials, by policy, are precluded from commenting on underclass players who have petitioned for early draft entry until after the deadline for doing so has passed. The deadline is Jan. 15, and the NFL will release a full list of underclass prospects after that.
While it is still early in the evaluation process for the April 26-27 draft, many league scouts feel that McFadden could be the most talented prospect in the player pool.
The Miami Dolphins own the top overall selection, but given the franchise's many needs, they could trade the choice for additional picks. Where McFadden is chosen could depend on the respective needs of the franchises choosing in the very early stages of the first round, but he is expected to be a top five pick.
"I just want to go play in the NFL," McFadden said. "Whether
I went No. 1 or dead last, it'll be the same feeling for me."
McFadden, 20, appeared in 30 games for the Razorbacks in three seasons, and carried 785 times for 4,590 yards and 41 touchdowns. He also had 46 receptions for 365 yards and two touchdowns. In each of the last two seasons, McFadden rushed for over 1,600 yards. He rushed for 1,830 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2007.
The North Little Rock, Ark., native holds the school record for single-season and career rushing yards. A three-time All-American, McFadden won the Doak Walker Award as the country's top running back for both 2006 and 2007.
Citing league rules that prohibit discussing underclass prospects before the NFL deems them officially eligible for the draft, scouts contacted late Friday night declined to comment for attribution about McFadden's potential draft status. But the feeling is that McFadden could produce the same kind of immediate impact in the league that Minnesota Vikings first-round pick Adrian Peterson did this season.
Peterson last week was chosen as the league's 2007 offensive rookie of the year.
Some scouts, however, did note that teams interested in choosing McFadden will investigate an early Thursday incident in which he was briefly handcuffed and then released following a disturbance outside of a Little Rock piano bar that was described by a police spokesperson as "a pretty rowdy scene."
No charges have been filed against McFadden. His mother, Mini Muhammad, said that her son was protecting his younger brother, Daryl, in the fracas.
Late in the season, a local television station reported that sports agent Mike Conley, a former track and field star, had arranged for McFadden to purchase a Cadillac Escalade. The station subsequently backed off the report, and McFadden termed the story "uncalled for."
Conley is not certified to represent NFL Players, the NFL Players Association confirmed for ESPN.com on Friday. The players union is the body which accredits agents and Conley, who applied for certification last year, apparently did not meet the requirements. Conley cannot become certified before the draft.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.