In 2011, it looked like Ryan Mathews was well on his way to becoming an NFL star in San Diego.
The former Fresno State running back grew up a Chargers fan, idolizing LaDainian Tomlinson so much, that he wore No. 21 in college.
While there was no chance of Mathews wearing the same number in the pros, there has been hope by the Chargers organization that he would emulate some of the things “LT” did in southern California thought would help his Chargers reach the playoffs and the Super Bowl.
So far, he has one Pro Bowl appearance and based on his 2012 performance, the odds of him getting back to Hawaii are slim, if not none.
As a fantasy owner, you must walk a fine line with Mathews and his production. Here is why.
First, let me say this as a disclaimer: I am not a fan of teams that trade up in the draft, especially in the first round, for a running back. The position is such that there can be a great one found at any time. Denver has proven that over the years.
Mathews was chosen in 2010 with the 12th selection, a pick San Diego moved up to take him. I always thought he was a “good” back, but not a “great” back, one who was a game-breaker or one who was elite. My feelings aside, injuries have played a part in his ascention toward greatness.
Mathews broke his right clavicle on his first carry in the first preseason game against the Green Bay Packers in 2012. Upon his return to action, he was sluggish and fumbled at a costly time in the game against Atlanta, in a 27-3 loss. He then broke his left clavical in the December 16 game against Carolina. Two devistating injuries like that can play on a player's psyche.
San Diego is one of those teams that has had talent and has not lived up to the expectations given them. That might have something to do with former head coach Norv Turner, who was fired after the 2012-13 season (too long in the saddle, if you ask me). With a new coach coming in (Mike McCoy from Denver), will the offense be the same?
Will there be changes? Will Mathews compete for playing time with the likes of Ronnie Brown and Jackie Battle. If you go to the official team website, you will see Mathews isn’t listed on the depth chart. That is not an encouraging sign.
At 6-foot and 218 pounds, Mathews should be the kind of runner that has an “elite” listing by his name. He has not proven that yet. While this team goes through its transition phase with McCoy, which will include changes to the passing game and new plays for Philip Rivers.
That means the running game should be able to take up the slack in the learning curve. Only problem is, no one knows if Mathews will be the starter yet or if he can produce like he did in 2011.
It’s just another question regarding a team that had loads of promise over the past few years and has not been able to produce.