What, I told them to match my hair with my smile…
As touched upon briefly and legally (I think, you never know with touching) in the post calling Montee Ball overrated, it dawned on me that Ryan Mathews still remains underrated, and he probably shouldn’t be. Here’s the specific quote about Mathews:
“Let’s not forget about Ryan Mathews, who also had these same issues (ball security and pass protection), and it took him three seasons to emerge into last year’s career breakout. It may be an apples/oranges comparison because of the injuries Mathews suffered, probably slowing his development, but it can’t be denied that there were specific game-plan decisions from 2010-2012 based on his weaknesses. And I’m sure there was a fruit basket involved somewhere. Needs more mango if you ask me. And may I add that these years also led to the amazing discovery that Ronnie Brown was actually still alive. Who knew?”
To further elaborate on those 2010-2012 years, even a homeristic (this word exists spell check, I swear!) fan like myself couldn’t bring myself to believe in Mathews. We are, in fact, talking about a back who had more broken more collarbones than touchdowns in 2012. Which, actually, now that I think about it, is pretty impressive. Add with the previously mentioned issues of ball security and pass protection, along with the fact that he had only one season in his career where he rushed for 1,000 yards, and missed 10 games in those three years…. well, even as one of the 57 Chargers fans (138 when the surf is low), I just couldn’t buy in at all for 2013.
And you know what? For the first five games of the season, I was right about Mathews. He was pretty much doing what he always did, and that’s rush around 15 times for 50-65 yards, and that’s… about… it. But then something happened in the Monday Night Football game against the Indianapolis Colts at the week six mark. Mike McCoy and Ken Wisenhunt decided that they wanted a team that could control the clock, and to do that, they needed to establish the run early-and-often. In that game, Mathews rushed for 102 yards in 22 carries. The next week, 21 carries for 110 yards and his first touchdown of the season. Take a look at the change in table form. MORE TABLES FOR EVERYONE.
|AVG. Rush||AVG. YDS||AVG YPG||TD|
The shift in coaching wasn’t the only reason. A mix ‘n match line got healthier as the season progressed. And, after a crushing goal-line failure against the Washington Football Team in week nine, in which Danny Woodhead and Ronnie Brown failed to get into the endzone from the two-yard line, costing a game that was easily the most-winnable out of all the close losses the Chargers had in 2013… if anything changed the Chargers mindset for attacking the endzone, that game was it, and that’s important to note. Because even though Mathews has seemingly broken out and shown that he can be a feature back, both in the NFL and your fantasy teams, the TD totals are the most underwhelming number on his stat page and are part of the reason he remains underrated (along with his other past issues). That number will most certainly go up in 2014. In fact, while not the most scientific approach, just prorate his last 10 weeks of play and you have a back who has 320 carries, 1,488 yards, and 10 touchdowns. That would put him in the conversation with Matt Forte, Alfred Morris, and Eddie Lacy.
Going forward, there’s plenty here to dream on. Sure, there’s always risk of injury, but in the NFL, you could say that about any player. He’s finally lived up to his potential, and look for him, if starting in 16 games for 2014, to put up career numbers across the board. In fact, he had the seventh highest yardage total (1,255) despite his week 1-5 handicap. I would of course say Mathews is your eventual MVP, but I’m trying to keep my homerism in check nowadays. HAHA. Yeah, let’s see how that works out…
At the very least, he’s inside my top-10 for running backs, and since I mentioned his name above, Mathews is certainly a better option in your drafts than Montee Ball. Go forth and grab him, you have my blessing. (Though, I use margaritas, not holy water.)