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The Forgotten Fantasy Football Five—Part 2: Ryan Mathews

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Ryan Mathews is currently being drafted in the fourth round of fantasy football mock drafts and I don’t understand why. He’s a bell-cow running back that is being forgotten about by too many in the fantasy community.

And yes, Mathews is a bell-cow running back.

I’ve heard too many times that he is sharing the backfield with Danny Woodhead and therefore, he has diminished value. He’s not and he doesn’t.

The Chargers ran the ball 486 times last season—that was the 6th-most rushing attempts in the league. Mathews had 285 of those attempts (58.6%). Danny Woodhead ran the ball 106 times last season (21.8%).

If you’re thinking that Woodhead’s carries reduced Mathews’ workload, consider this: only LeSean McCoy (314), Marshawn Lynch (301) and Matt Forte (289) ran the ball more than Mathews. He’s a bell-cow—stop with the nonsense.

And nothing San Diego did this offseason suggests Mathews’ workload will be reduced—he’ll still get over 275 carries in 2014.

Yes, the Chargers added Donald Brown. But Brown is a nice backup, not a starting-caliber running back or one who will share the backfield with Mathews. He’s insurance, and perhaps a bargaining chip for after the season when San Diego decides to either keep Mathews or let him walk.

The backfield is Mathews’ and over the past few years, he has learned what to do with it, as he showed in 2013. 

Mathews averaged 4.4 yards per carry last season and did so after a terrible start of the season. Over the first five weeks of the 2013 season, he ran the ball a total of 67 times and gain only 234 yards (3.49 YPC). During that time, he suffered a hamstring injury and concussion. 

From Week 6 on, Mathews turned it up: 218 carries for 1,021 yards and six touchdowns, including the final four weeks of the regular season where he averaged over 25 carries per game and over 100-total yards per game.

Let’s say Mathews' yards per carry average of 4.4 last year dips down to 4.2 YPC. With 285 carries, that still puts Mathews at 1,197 yards rushing. Only seven running backs (including Mathews) finished with more than 1,200 yards rushing last season.

I guess fantasy owners are still looking through their 2012 or older fantasy lenses when it comes to Mathews. He has turned the corner and will be a low-end RB1 next season, just as he was in 2013.

Mathews is a bell-cow running back (maybe if I say it enough, you’ll start to see it) on a San Diego team who did the following:

  • Racked up a ton of yards (6,293 (5th best)
  • Ran a boatload of plays (1,060 – 12th most)
  • Scored on 44.9% of their drives.
  • Scored the 12th-most points in 2013.

I’m not going out on any limbs by saying the Chargers hit its stride last year. And in that offense, Mathews finished 11th overall in fantasy scoring among all running backs last year. And remember, he’s a guy who isn’t being drafted until the fourth round.

The Chargers’ offensive dominance isn’t slowing down this year either and may very well improve.

Malcom Floyd is returning to the starting lineup and gives San Diego an explosive weapon on the outside. Reports from the Bolts’ OTAs and minicamp were that Floyd hasn’t shown any signs of slowing. Floyd is a guy who can average upwards of 70 yards per game. That’s much more than what the underwhelming Vincent Brown does for the Chargers. Look for the Floyd hype to take hold after the first or second preseason game.

Malcom Floyd_Catch

Emerging tight end Ladarius Green is one of the most talked about breakout candidates this year and will also add to the offensive firepower, along with San Diego having one of the better offensive lines in the league.

Center Nick Hardwick is returning to anchor the line and Chad Rinehart re-signed with San Diego in the offseason. Right guard Jeromey Clary was the weakest link of the group but it looks like third-round pick Chris Watt will take his spot. D.J. Fluker did well as a rookie last year and should improve this season. And King Dunlap will keep his spot at left tackle.

[Take a peak at Part 1 of the Forgotten Five - Matt Ryan Edition]

Prior to the 2013 season, San Diego’s offensive line was being dubbed a “rag-tag” bunch of guys and had a poor outlook. After the season, Pro Football Focus tagged them as being the eleventh-best run-blocking line in the game that gave up the fifth-fewest sacks.

It’s hard to understand why a 300-touch running back in the AFC West is going in the fourth round of mock drafts. Whatever the reasoning, that’s Mathews’ ADP and he’s going to be a steal for someone—let that someone be you.

[Like this? Follow me on Twitter for more good ol' fantasy home-cookin']

Cedric Hopkins

Cedric Hopkins Bio

Cedric Hopkins runs this sports law/fantasy football blog. If you have issues with it, it's all his fault. Cedric was an athlete-student at the University of New Mexico (Basketball - Go Lobos!). He then morphed into a student-athlete when he attended law school in San Diego. Age replaced athleticism and now he writes appellate briefs for criminals (alleged criminals, of course) in state and federal cases, including writing U.S. Supreme Court briefs.

For years Cedric has researched and written about legal issues but maintained a love for sports. With FieldandCourt.com, he's combining his two passions: researching and writing about sports. When he's not in court arguing a case before a judge (or writing about himself in the third person), he'll be doing the same with his articles on FieldandCourt.com. Follow me, er, him on Twitter (opens in a new window).

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Cedric Hopkins

Cedric Hopkins runs this sports law/fantasy football blog. If you have issues with it, it's all his fault. Cedric was an athlete-student at the University of New Mexico (Basketball - Go Lobos!). He then morphed into a student-athlete when he attended law school in San Diego. Age replaced athleticism and now he writes appellate briefs for criminals (alleged criminals, of course) in state and federal cases, including writing U.S. Supreme Court briefs.

For years Cedric has researched and written about legal issues but maintained a love for sports. With FieldandCourt.com, he's combining his two passions: researching and writing about sports. When he's not in court arguing a case before a judge (or writing about himself in the third person), he'll be doing the same with his articles on FieldandCourt.com. Follow me, er, him on Twitter (opens in a new window).