Fantasy Value: What to do with Ryan Mathews?

| 4 years ago
Ryan Mathews

Fantasy Value: What to do with Ryan Mathews?


Many are of the opinion that Ryan Mathews was a major bust in 2012. Expectations for the talented running back have been high since his stellar 2011 campaign. Mathews was considered a potential value pick after his ADP fell out of the first round and into the late second and early third round due to an injury he suffered after carrying the ball one time in a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. Many owners drafted Mathews knowing he had a broken collarbone but hoped for him to return to his 2011 form once he returned to the football field.

Mathews’ owners were hoping for an early return and received just that when Mathews returned to the field in Week 3. Immediately, Mathews was placed on a “touch count” by the coach in order to work off the rust and prepare his running back for the rest of the season. Mathews had a solid outing against the Falcons until he lost a fumble. The Chargers followed Week 3 by publicly criticizing Mathews’ ability to secure the ball and gave Jackie Battle consecutive starts in Weeks 4 and 5, in what some considered a motivational play by the GM and Head Coach Norv Turner.

Mathews’ woes in 2012 should not have been placed squarely on him. Several issues led to the downfall of the Chargers overall offense that finished 31st in the league. Some issues that impacted the lack of offensive production: poor offensive line play, a quarterback who was sacked 49 times and had 22 turnovers, WR Vincent Brown breaking his ankle in the preseason, and what some would call questionable coaching.

Following a 7-9 season, the Chargers started an offseason of changes. Norv Turner was fired and was hired to become Cleveland’s offensive coordinator. Former Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy was announced as the new San Diego Chargers coach, and Tom Telesco was hired as the Chargers GM. The changes in San Diego are positive for a team that needs a boost in overall offensive production. After a season of leading the Denver Broncos to No. 4 in total offense and No. 2 in points scored, McCoy was brought in to overhaul a stagnant Chargers offense that could potentially lean on Mathews as a centerpiece of the offense. Or can they?

 

Ryan Mathews Career Stats (Non-PPR)

Year

Games

Rush

Yards

Y/R

TD

Rec

Yards

Fantasy Pts

RB Rank

2010

12

157

675

4.3

7

22

145

124

32

2011

14

222

1091

4.9

6

50

455

191

7

2012

12

184

707

3.8

1

39

252

102

30

 

What does this mean for Ryan Mathews?

In a recent interview, Tom Telesco was quoted as saying Ryan Mathews “can be a bellcow back.” In the same interview, he also mentioned that the team will search for another player who can shoulder some of the workload. Coach Mike McCoy followed that interview by saying the Chargers would look for a complement back, no doubt about it.

Immediately fantasy owners have to believe that Mathews will be in a RBBC. Regardless, it is hard to imagine Mathews being used less than he was during the 2012 season where he was drafted as RB12 and finished as RB30. Mathews only took more than half the snaps in six of the 12 games he played in this season. He had five total touches on third down all season long. Mathews did not have a single game where he rushed for over 100 yards. Mathews had one more broken clavicle (two) than he had touchdowns (one) on the season.

If fantasy owners use Mike McCoy’s and new offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt’s history with running backs as an indicator of Mathews’ success, they will not find much solace. McCoy and Whisenhunt combined have never finished higher than 16th in the league in rushing yards in a season. That season was with McCoy in 2011 having Tim Tebow at QB. It would be tough to suggest that they will make Mathews a focal point of the offense.

Another issue for the San Diego Chargers was a porous offensive line. The loss of Jared Gaither for the season and the poor play of others on the offensive line left little running room. Possible upgrades to the offensive line in the offseason could help Mathews’ production as well as his health. With guard Louis Vasquez potentially leaving as a free agent and the possible impending release of tackle Jared Gaither, the Chargers would be losing two of their three top offensive linemen from the 2012 season. How the Chargers address the offensive line in the offseason could change the outlook of Ryan Mathews and his fantasy value in 2013. An upgrade on the offensive line could open up more holes and potentially reduce the punishment the already oft-injured Mathews has taken over the last three seasons.

The broken clavicles, lack of production on offense, offensive line woes, and coaching changes will affect Ryan Mathews’ value going into 2013 season. Mathews could be at his best value yet. It could also mean a strong RBBC where Mathews takes the majority of carries. Currently, Mathews’ ADP is around RB16. Although he has been a big name draft pick over the last three NFL seasons, he may be this year’s “sleeper pick” or he may maintain his status as “fantasy bust.” If he were to wake up from his three-year NFL slumber, he could be the pick of the 2013 season, or owners may get exactly what they expected, injuries, missed games and broken fantasy dreams.

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