There are a ton of things to like about Mathews and I've seen him ranked this year anywhere from #2 overall down to about #10, but just about everyone had him ranked as a solid first round pick in any format. Until last night.
There are indeed lots of things to like with Mathews. Here we have a former 1st round pick coming off of a very strong sophomore season in the NFL. Ideal size and weight for a feature back, he had the highest yards per carry of any back in the league last year over 220 carries. Furthermore, Mike Tolbert, the #2 running back in San Diego left the organization in the off-season so there is no longer a strong #2 running back to siphon off carries, receptions (Tolbert had 54), and touchdowns (10 for Tolbert in 2011) from Mathews. He's got a fantastic quarterback to open up the field, his head coach is saying that they will give him all he can handle, and he's still only in his 3rd season. We have so few clear bell-cow feature backs in the NFL that the ones we have become prized commodities, and that describes Mathews.
There is just this one little problem: He gets injured.
He was listed on the injury report 10 times as a rookie and only played in 12 games. In his 2nd year he was on the injury report 5 times, missing 2 games. Just last week he was "a little banged up" from a minor car accident. And now, this: a broken clavicle on his first carry of the preseason.
The official prognosis is that he is out 4-6 weeks. So, it is within the realm of possibility that he comes back for the opener on Monday night 4 weeks and 3 days from now. It's possible, but I wouldn't bet on it. I should point out that despite my hesitancy, Mathews is still very young and probably has good recuperative abilities, plus he has been trying to play with his injuries in the first two years of his career. I don't think there is any reason to doubt his toughness or his ability to heal at this point.
However, there is plenty of reason to doubt his ability to stay healthy.
So, what do we do with him? One thing is for sure, he's not a 1st round pick anymore. You've got to figure he's out at least one game, if not two or three. I'm not a doctor, even though I play one on the Internet, but the recovery process from a broken collarbone will limit his ability to work out and stay sharp. I suppose he will be able to maintain his cardio and leg strength, so it isn't all doom and gloom, but even with that said this knocks him down at least a round or two.
My personal opinion is that I will be looking for him to drop in drafts. If he slides to the late 3rd or early 4th round I'm willing to roll the dice. But, to be sure, it is a roll of the dice. He could roll an ankle again... or injure his elbow again... or his groin again... or his foot again... or his calf again. Or another illness, or another car accident. Or why not try something new? He's got other things to injure.
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