The New England Patriots were thought to be interested in re-signing Danny Woodhead, but the San Diego Chargers signed the diminutive running back to a two-year deal on Friday. He will fall in behind Ryan Mathews on the depth chart, and provide quarterback Philip Rivers with a backfield weapon that has been missing in San Diego since Darren Sproles left via free agency.
Woodhead is coming off a solid season for the Patriots in 2012, setting career-highs in receptions (40), receiving yards (446) and total touchdowns (seven-four rushing, three receiving). He is clearly not physically suited to being a workhorse back, but he has averaged 4.8 yards per carry on 265 career carries and scored five touchdowns on the ground with New England in 2010.
But the bigger news for fantasy football owners is the negative impact Woodhead’s signing is likely to have on Mathews. The 2010 first-round pick was a popular pick to be a breakout player last season, but he had just 707 rushing yards and one touchdown as two separate collarbone injuries caused him to miss four games. He also had 39 receptions for 252 yards, but only had five total touches on third down all season as Jackie Battle and Ronnie Brown took a lot of that work. At the very least, Woodhead is a clear upgrade over Battle and Brown and could eat into some of Mathews’ early-down touches as well.
Even with the move to San Diego, Woodhead’s fantasy value is still greatest in PPR leagues. New Chargers’ offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt will surely find a way to use him a lot in the passing game, and his prowess around the goal line should not be overlooked with how Mathews struggled in that area even when healthy last season. Mathews still has a chance to retain some appeal as a low-end RB1 in 2013, but Woodhead now being in the fold diminishes that possibility significantly.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.