Ryan Mathews Likely To Handle Third Down Duties For Chargers

5/31/12 in NFL   |   Matthew_Shovlin   |   735 respect

December 18, 2011; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews (24) runs for a first down during the fourth quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at Qualcomm Stadium. The Chargers won 34-14 Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-US PRESSWIRESan Diego Chargers' head coach Norv Turner said today that running back Ryan Mathews will handle third down duties this season, making him one of the rare every down backs in the NFL. Well, no spit. Who was gonna come out of the backfield and catch passes? Le'Ron McClain? Curtis Brinkley? As a Raiders fan, I wish. Ryan Mathews is solid catching the ball. Even if there were a backup who was a suitable third down option, Mathews would likely still get the job. Mathews caught 50 passes last year in only 13 starts. He's a fine option on third down.

As I always say, it's never too early to talk fantasy football. I start thinking up my draft strategy while the NFL Playoffs are still going on. So, as far as fantasy implications, this is good news for Mathews' outlook. He made vast improvements last year, and coming into only his third year, it's reasonable to expect a significant pick up in production. The departure of Mike Tolbert is huge for Mathews' fantasy potential. He had a modest 1091 yards last season, but sharing the backfield with Tolbert limited him to 222 carries. Expect that number to go way up. If he can continue to manage 4.9 yards per tote, you're looking at a stud fantasy running back. I'll never draft him, because I despise the Chargers, but I expect him to be on the low end of the elite backs (production wise - I don't think he's all that great a player) and think he could be a good value late in the first round.

However, it seems to me like good fantasy running backs are becoming more plentiful. This is something I'm going to look into as my draft approaches. But just keep in mind that if you pass on Mathews in the first round and grab, let's say, Andre Johnson, you could get a guy like Darren McFadden in the second round and not experience too bad of a drop off at the running back position.
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