San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews finished his 2011 NFL season with 1,091 rushing yards which ranked 10th among players. Mathews also had 50 receptions for 455 yards. This gave him 1,546 yards from scrimmage which was good enough for seventh in the NFL. Mathews missed two games, so he was on pace for 1,247 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. The San Diego RB is projected to go 24th among players at his position in yahoo fantasy football.
As I mentioned in a previous article, Buffalo Bills RB Fred Jackson and Oakland Raiders RB Darren McFadden were on pace to surpass Mathews in rushing yards and touchdowns, but they missed six and nine games respectively. Jamaal Charles was second in the NFL with 1,467 rushing yards during the 2010 season, but tore his ACL and missed 14 of his team’s 16 games last season. It will be interesting to see how Charles plays this year. I can see why fantasy owners would take other running backs over Mathews because he was tied for 17th in rushing touchdowns among running backs last season with six. However, Vincent Jackson signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a free agent, so this could mean fewer pass attempts and more opportunities for Mathews.
Mathews is entering his third NFL season, but only his second as San Diego’s primary running back. Mathews will not turn 25 years old until October of 2012, so he should have fresher legs than some of the running backs projected to go ahead of him like Willis McGahee and Steven Jackson who are entering their ninth season each. Mathews ranked 12th in the league with about 78 rushing yards per game last year. McGahee and McFadden were ahead of him in this category for 2011 and are projected to be ahead of him in 2012. I would caution owners though because McGahee’s team went from Tim Tebow, who was last in the NFL with 19 pass attempts per game, to Peyton Manning who averages 35 pass attempts per game in his career, which could mean fewer rush attempts. McFadden is an injury risk because he missed at least three games every season from 2008-2011. DeMarco Murrary and C.J. Spiller showed signs of explosiveness, but they along with Darren Sproles, Isaac Redman, Jahvid Best, Michael Bush, James Starks, Jackson and McGahee are projected to be ahead of Mathews in 2012. Mathews was fifth among running backs in yards from scrimmage in 2011.