Fantasy Football and the NFL has it's ebbs and flows in terms of information.With the NFL Draft long behind us and the league still several weeks before training camps open, June can seem like a bore to many. With the only big news so far being Justin Blackmon's DUI arrest, I'd like to throw out Chargers RB Ryan Mathews, a player who hasn't made many headlines this offseason, but has slowly gained fantasy steam.
Mathews may not have been a player who made himself welcomed early in his career after missing four games in 2010. But after rushing for 1091 yards on just 222 carries (4.9 avg) and catching 50 passes in 2011, it might be time we finally include Mathews in with RB1-type players like Maurice Jones-Drew and Chris Johnson.
In my last Two-Round Mock Draft done back in April, I had Mathews going at the 2.4 spot. But with news coming out the last several weeks that the coaching staff and Norv Turner plan on giving Mathews the rock as much as possible, I think we may see Mathews crack the first round in the upcoming weeks, if he hasn't already.
Here are several pieces of info I gathered on what the media and the Chargers think of Mathews in 2012:
Ryan Mathews and Curtis Brinkley are the only true tailbacks on the roster. Turner is excited about the strides Mathews can continue to make in his third season, saying he expects Mathews to be a "guy who has that breakout, big-time year." - San Diego Union Tribune
“I personally think he’s ready to take that next step,” said Turner, who added he thinks Mathews has what it takes to someday lead the league in rushing. “That means, to me, the production goes way up, and he’s more of the guy that is on the field most of the time. I think he’s grown a lot in terms of understanding his responsibility when the ball is in his hand.” - San Diego Union Tribune
Last week, Turner said in San Diego he was getting Mathews ready "for everything he can handle.'' Sounds very much like Mathews, if he stays upright, will get his 300 carries, and then some. - Peter King, SI.COM
I have no doubt that Mathews has the talent to be an every-down workhorse. Between averaging 4.6 yards per carry and 7.9 yards per catch over the last two seasons, Mathews could easily be a stud in PPR and non-PPR formats. The question in my mind is health. Does Mathews have the durability to carry the ball 300+ times and play all sixteen games? His 2010 rookie season was marred by injuries and he missed two games last year. With any fantasy player, especially a running back, there is always going to be a chance that the guy is going to miss some time. But when you select the guy with your first pick, durability is always a concern.
If I had to choose between a guy like Frank Gore, Steven Jackson or Ryan Mathews at the end of the first round, I would almost have to go with Mathews simply because of the higher ceiling. And if Turner stays true to his commitment, the Chargers backfield will finally get out of the dreaded running-back-by-committee mode, which had been the case with Mathews and Mike Tolbert (Carolina).
But I warn owners: if you do take a chance on Mathews as your RB1, you had better factor in which running back will wind up as No. 2 on the depth chart. Le'Ron McClain anyone?