There has been extensive and terrific debate about whether or not the Falcons should select Darren McFadden, a Greek god among mere mortals at running back, or select someone else. Rather than examine McFadden as a player this long before the draft, I want to caution everyone before you get the fevered idea that McFadden can save this franchise.
We've been here before, albeit in different circumstances. The Falcons have been perched atop the draft many times, always looking for that one player who could change their fortunes. The most recent and unfortunate example would be Michael Vick, he of the magical disappearing career. History has taught us that comparatively few players change the course of an entire team. Many of you will point to Adrian Peterson as an example of a running back who did just that, and it's about as good a recent example as you can find. In doing so, it's useful to remember that the Vikings weren't completely awful to begin with. AP proved to be one of the best players in the NFL last season, but Minny also had a stellar defense that carried them when he was injured or (rarely) ineffective. Even a franchise cure-all can't do it by himself.
Which is where McFadden comes in. Into the beginning of the offseason, I advocated picking up a QB with the team's first round pick. My reasoning was that the Falcons were a horrendous team this last season, and QB play factored prominently in that. But then I took a look back and realized that running back was an even more atrocious position last year, in large part because of Coach-Who-Is-A-Jackass. I also realized that the defense, for all its admirable effort and play last season, still could use some fresh blood. To make a long list short, this is a team with some serious needs.
McFadden would likely solve the ground game issue immediately. He's a rare talent, and health appears to be one of the few issues that could stop him from having a great career. He'd be a huge draw and a transformative presence when the Falcons have the ball, and he'd take a lot of pressure off any quarterback we drafted. He would be, in short, a great draft pick.
The mistake would be to assume that Darren McFadden can turn around the team, as noted. The Falcons are likely to be better with him, but if they select McFadden and say Flacco in the second round, there's suddenly a lot of team building to do after those two flashy selections. The Falcons have severe needs along the offensive line and could use some help at corner and defensive tackle, needs which are arguably more immediate than running back. That leads me to believe that Comrade Dimitroff will be looking to fill those needs, even if he has to trade down out of his spot to do it. Without an offensive line assembled to open up holes, McFadden isn't going to look quite so spectacular. Neither would Matt Ryan, for that matter.
I'm not really advocating for or against McFadden, mind you. If Dimitroff can put together a great draft with him on the top, consider me on board. If he can't, I'd just as soon see him start picking up some hefty linemen as soon as possible in the draft. Either way, it'd be unfair to expect our first round draft pick to erase an awful franchise history all by himself.