After an injury riddled rookie season Ryan Mathews has been as high as #8 in some fantasy rankings and as low as #26 with respect to running backs. There was a lot of hype surrounding Mathews and his high draft selection in 2010. Except between injuries and the stellar play by Mike Tolbert, Mathew’s touches were cut into dramatically. However, this year is certain to be different, better. Mathews only played in 12 games in his rookie season. (Only had 5 carries in another game thanks to an injury) Even with missing all that time, Mathews was still able to accumulate very respectable rookie numbers, with 158 carries for close to 700 yards and seven scores. Yes, three of those came in the finale against Denver, but it was on the road with Tim Tebow at the helm so we can assume that they were still playing hard. Mathews also added in 22 receptions for almost 150 yards.
With the Chargers having traded up 16 spots to snatch Mathews, it is a safe bet to say that the Chargers are not going to let one subpar year deter them from giving Mathews another go at carrying the load. Last year coach Norv Turner said they would look to get Mathews anywhere from 300 to 350 touches. Why should this year be any different? This year I look for him to be an absolute workhorse. Perhaps Sproles will sneak into a third down role every now and again, of course he will still have his package of plays and Tolbert may steal a few goal line touches. That being said, I still see Ryan Mathews as a breakout star and in a division where the Chargers are still the cream of the crop. This year I think they break out of their traditional early season stumbles and really grab the AFC West by the horns.
With Mathews having such a down year in his rookie year there are going to be a lot of fantasy owners that will shy away from the second year player for fear of a repeat performance. He will most likely drop in my opinion into a third or fourth round of standard drafts and in keeper leagues he was almost undoubtedly dropped from most all teams. In those leagues I still would see him as a second or third round selection at best. He is kind of the forgotten man in the fantasy world, especially after all the excitement that stirred about him before last season. Now given these circumstances it is hard to ignore that the value of where someone will get him is without question, a steal. When you can get someone who is going to produce a thousand yard season that is also a legitimate threat to catch passes out of the backfield, then you have indeed found yourself a sleeper. In keeper leagues, I look for Mathews to be kept in upwards of 95% of them after this season. Thus, bringing him full circle in only his second NFL season, going from sleeper to keeper.