Ryan Mathews was a highly-coveted player in fantasy football drafts after showing explosiveness in limited carries during the 2011 season. Unfortunately for his owners, the only expectations that Mathews fulfilled in 2012 were the ones about his health concerns. He suffered a broken clavicle on his first preseason carry which caused him to miss the start of the regular season.
When he got back on the field, he lacked the explosiveness that he demonstrated in 2011. The shortcomings of the San Diego Chargers running game cannot exactly be attributed to their offensive line either. San Diego running backs were stuffed on just 17% of their attempts which qualified them with the 6th fewest in the league. The holes were there, Mathews just couldn’t find his way through them. After averaging 4.9 yards per carry in 2011, Mathews only managed 3.8 yards per carry and only managed one run of 20+ yards in 184 attempts.
San Diego announced today that Ken Whisenhunt would take over as their offensive coordinator and assume play-calling duties. Whisenhunt held that position once before during his tenure with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 2004-2007. In his four seasons with Pittsburgh, the Steelers twice ranked ninth and twice ranked eighth in rushing. During the four years, Pittsburgh twice ran the ball more than any other team in the NFL.
This brings exciting possibilities for the San Diego run game going forward. The volume of carries will be there but what can Mathews do with them? I believe that a fresh system and new plays may be a solution for Mathews. The former San Diego regime used Mathews sparingly, perhaps cautious over his track record of injuries.
Despite his pass-catching prowess, Mathews was lifted on third-downs in favor of the aging Ronnie Brown. He also surrendered approximately one-third of possessions to the sluggish and inferior Jackie Battle.
Whisenhunt’s play-calling may be a reason for optimism for Mathews fantasy value in 2013. After he burned so many fantasy owners in 2012, Mathews will not trusted as a top-15 running back on draft day. Don’t expect Mathews to reach his past expectations but he will improve and could be a value pick. Provided he stays healthy, Mathews should top 1,000 yards after failing to do so in 2012 and has the upside to rank as a top-10 fantasy running back.