RB Ryan Mathews, Free agent
HT: 6-0, WT: 218, Born: 5-1-1987, College: Fresno State, Drafted: Round 1, Pick 1
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Average draft position
Current as of August 25th. [Full ADP list]Overall: P Garcon (39), V Cruz (40), Ryan Mathews (41), A Luck (42), R White (43)
Position: R Bush (32-RB16), C Spiller (36-RB17), Ryan Mathews (41 - RB18), T Gerhart (44-RB19), F Gore (46-RB20)
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PPR Average draft position
Current as of August 25th. [Full PPR ADP list]Overall: S Vereen (43), T Gerhart (44), Ryan Mathews (45), A Luck (46), R Jennings (47)
Position: S Vereen (43-RB18), T Gerhart (44-RB19), Ryan Mathews (45 - RB20), R Jennings (47-RB21), R Rice (52-RB22)
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Mathews was the Chargers' first-round pick in 2010, but on the whole has failed to live up to expectations. When he's been healthy, he's generally played well (aside from a few fumbles in important game situations). But he's been in and out of the lineup with all manner of injuries throughout his NFL career. His physical talent is tantalizing: he has excellent power and balance, and deceptive speed for a back his size, and he has put together some impressive fantasy performances for multiple-game stretches. (In 2011, for example, he was the #7 fantasy RB despite playing just 14 games.) On the other hand, between his injuries, inopportune fumbles, and occasional mistakes as a pass-blocker, his fantasy owners in previous seasons have often been left wondering -- why is Mathews on the sideline, his backup in the game, once again? All things considered, Mathews is a high-risk, high-reward fantasy prospect who should be drafted as a high-end RB2, but could realistically finish anywhere from inside the top five to outside the top thirty depending on his ability to stay on the field.
2013 Game Summaries
Week 1 - Mathews’ night began as well as possible, as he leaked out to the sideline on a wheel route up the sideline, resulting in a diving touchdown reception. QB Philip Rivers led him perfectly up the sideline, and Mathews did the rest by maintaining concentration to remain inbounds and haul in the pass. On the ground, Mathews looked more like the 2011 version than the 2012 one. He appeared very tentative and hesitant to really hit the hole hard last season, but in this game he constantly hit the hold hard and fell forward. He showed nice patience going off-tackle on one run, and showing power when the situation called for it. The San Diego run blocking was effective, particularly on a fourth down run up the gut. Mathews was met at the line by All-Pro J.J. Watt and was bumped backwards. But he maintained his footing, regrouped, and powered ahead for the conversion. About the only negative aspect of Mathews’ night was the fact that new coach Mike McCoy appears to plan on using Mathews in much the same way former coach Norv Turner did. Mathews came off the field on third downs, was out of the game for entire series at a time, and did not see any action when San Diego was on the goal line. If his usage pattern doesn’t change soon, his upside will be limited and he will not get enough opportunities to rejoin the league’s elite tier.
Week 2 - Mathews looked strong running the ball, even if the results weren’t spectacular. The pace of the game dictated that each team’s offense was moving the ball almost at will, so the running games kind of took a back seat in the second half. The offensive line gave him lots of running room in the early going though, and he did a great job of repeatedly picking up the edge by beating the contain defender to the outside. As per the preseason plan, Mathews came off the field on most passing downs for Danny Woodhead. Late in the first half, Mathews took a simple handoff off the left side and had the ball poked away from behind. He has had issues with ball security throughout his career, so that combined with the lack of receiving work is not something Mathews owners want to hear. But the team went right back to him to open the second half following the fumble, showing that they haven’t lost faith in him just yet. He also got the call on an enormous third and 1 carry late in the game, a play on which he powered up the middle to pick up the first down.
Week 3 - It won’t show up in the stat sheet, but Mathews ran hard and was pretty effective with the limited room he was given to run. The San Diego offensive line did him no favors, and every one of the 58 rushing yards he picked up was earned the hard way. He took some big hits in the game, and made something happen out of nothing on just about every one of his rushing attempts. If Mathews owners have one complaint, it is in the way the team is distributing the workload. Both Danny Woodhead and Ronnie Brown were expected to have a role on the team, but it has come at the expense of Mathews and has also come frequently on early down situations. More importantly, he exited the game on the team’s lone trip down to the goal line area (Ronnie Brown came in for the 1-yard touchdown). And the commentators made mention several times of defenders just trying to rip the ball out of the hands of Mathews, who has been prone to fumbling in his career so far. He did get some short yardage work, once in the first half on a third and one carry. He looked a bit tentative to hit the hole and ended up getting stonewalled by the defense. But late in the game as San Diego tried to run the clock down, it was Mathews and not the other two who was on the field. He even converted another third and short handoff on a toss to the left side. But if his workload is going to be maxed at sixteen touches in a close game against a non-elite team like Tennessee, it will be tough for him to move up to a higher tier of back this season.
Week 4 - Mathews had a game-high 23 touches in this contest, although it was a quiet 23 touches. He totaled over 100 yards from scrimmage, but his longest play was a 14-yard reception and his longest run went for just seven yards. More importantly, he was upstaged by fellow running back Danny Woodhead, who found the end zone twice. Mathews continues to run with a very physical style with some strong inside running, but his usage is fairly inconsistent. He was never in the game on third downs, but he also came out on a number of second down plays too. The offensive line is also having trouble opening up very many running lanes for him, which means all the yardage he is getting is very well-earned. It is important to note that with the Chargers trying to run the clock out at the end of the game, it was Mathews who was getting the carries to salt away the lead.
Week 5 - Mathews left the game late in the first half with a concussion. However, even before the concussion he wasn't getting a great deal of action. Danny Woodhead has seemingly supplanted him as the lead back in the team's committee of running backs, even getting a goal line carry in this game.
Week 6 - Coming off of a concussion and with Danny Woodhead running so well, it was assumed that Mathews would be eased back in and might see a somewhat limited workload. Instead, he had a season high 22 carries (more than twice as many as Woodhead). And not only that, but Mathews responded with his first 100-yard rushing effort of the season. Mathews looked good in getting to that 100, powering up the middle and hitting the hole time after time. The great majority of his attempts came on power rushes up the middle, and he fearlessly lowered his head into the defenders on multiple occasions. Mathews has a reputation for being injury prone, but a large part of that may have to do with the fact that he runs with such a physical style. On a couple of occasions, the formation called for Mathews to take it to the outside and those were typically the times that he picked up greater chunks of yardage. Of course, that could be due in part to having softened up the defense by powering everything up the middle beforehand. Early in the second half, Chargers beat writer Michael Gehlken reported that he saw Mathews gingerly jogging to the sideline and being checked out by the trainers, but he was back in the game two plays later and getting carries shortly thereafter (with no mention from the television reporters either). With the Chargers trying to run the clock down late in the game, it was Mathews who was in getting the calls. He mostly looked good even with the defense knowing he was getting the ball, particularly on one handoff up the right side that he burst into the open field for a near game-clinching first down run. But on the very next play, he made a very boneheaded decision by running out of bounds on a handoff up the left side. He should have just fallen down to remain inbounds and keep the clock moving, and the gaffe enabled the Colts to save a timeout. Despite an angry head coach, Mathews remained in the game and got the call on the very next play, picking up four yards up the middle.
Week 7 - Mathews went over 100 rushing yards for the second consecutive week, and made it look easy in this one. The San Diego offensive line, despite suffering a handful of additional injuries, managed to open a couple of gaping holes for Mathews, who repeatedly took advantage. His very first touch of the game went off left tackle and picked up ten yards. On the next few runs, the Chargers had a tough time opening up very many holes for him but he continued to run hard. Eventually that hard worked paid off, as the Jaguar defense eventually got worn down. Similarly to last week, Mathews took a couple of handoffs that were designed cut-backs where he picked up large chunks of yardage. He didn't get an enormous workload, but every time he got the ball he ran with power and explosiveness. One of the biggest concerns of Mathews owners this season was his lack of activity in the red zone and in the passing game. While he didn't factor into the passing game in this one (and Danny Woodhead did get the call on a short handoff for a touchdown), Mathews still got the call on a handoff off right tackle from the 3-yard line. He bowled over a couple of defenders and powered his way into the end zone for his first score of the season. Finally, with the Chargers trying to run out the clock late in the fourth quarter, Mathews was the player in there to wind it down.
Danny Woodhead As usual, the majority of Woodhead's production came in the short passing game. He did get a significant workload on the ground, even scoring a rushing touchdown from short yardage, but more than half of his yardage came through the air. His biggest pass play was a designed screen to pick up 26 yards on 2nd and 20. There was some excellent blocking down the field, and as usual Woodhead did a terrific job of reading his blocks. On the lone scoring play, he actually nearly scored on the previous play. He hit the hole hard up the middle and appeared to be headed for the end zone, but ended up getting popped just as he reached the five. He was given the call on the very next play, and dove over the pile and into the end zone for the score. He nearly added a second score later on in the first half, but was stuffed right at the doorstep of the end zone.
Week 9 - Mathews was effective in the early going, running strong up the middle and picking up chunks of yardage at a time. On one play in particular, a would-be tackler had his ankle wrapped up but Mathews managed to step out of the tackle and shake free for extra yardage. Oddly enough though, despite the fact that the game remained relatively close throughout, the Chargers rarely went to Mathews again after halftime. Danny Woodhead got the call in nearly all situations, both through the air and on the ground. There was no mention of injury to Mathews, and no reports as to why he wasn't in the game. Late in the fourth quarter as San Diego drove for a potential game-winning score, Woodhead was the back for nearly the entire drive. After getting stuffed on a goal line attempt, Mathews did briefly come into the game. But San Diego opted to run a fade pattern to TE Antonio Gates, and Mathews was back out of the game on the very next play. After back to back 100-yard efforts, it was more than a bit curious why the Chargers opted to just completely get away from getting the ball to their starting (and effective) halfback.
Week 10 - Mathews got some early work on the opening drives, but soon left the game without explanation following a huge 39-yard run that was negated due to a holding penalty. After Ronnie Brown got a fairly heavy workload in his absence, it was reported that Mathews was out getting his hamstring taped up. Mathews returned to the game early in the second quarter and wasted little time, ripping off a 35-yard run off a misdirection to the left side. With San Diego trailing the entire second half, they got away from the running game a bit so the opportunities were limited. But following a couple of big pass plays, it worked out perfectly for Mathews to be able to score. QB Philip Rivers completed a 6-yard pass down to the goal line to RB Danny Woodhead. San Diego fans will remember last week, when the team got on the goal line but never gave Mathews a chance to score, only to be blasted for the decision all week. Well this week, Mathews was more than up to the task. He took the handoff and dove over the pile, managing to reach the ball out over the top. Mathews did an excellent job of leaning in and using his body to protect the ball but also extend over the goal line for the score. With his propensity to hit the hole hard and regularly push the pile forward, he seems like a natural for goal line work (if he can improve his ball security).
Week 11 - Mathews has finally seen some consistent workloads recently, and has responded with some fantastic performances. This game was no different, as he saw the ball 21 times and responded with 143 yards from scrimmage. He has mostly taken a back seat to Danny Woodhead (and others) in the passing game, but in this one he saw two receptions on the team's opening drive. However, he didn't catch another pass after that fast start. What he did do a lot, and do effectively, was run the football. His 127 yards paced both teams, and included a career-best 51 yard run in the second half. He found a seam up the left side and just blasted into the open field, getting to top speed VERY quickly before Miami even got near him. At various points in the game, he just flat out ran over defenders, showing excellent power and burst on his many inside runs. And on nearly every occasion, he ran through the tackler at the end of the play and fell forward. He is doing all he can to quiet the critics who have labeled him as "soft" and "injury prone", but it's a tough reputation to shake. Sure enough, he had to leave this game momentarily to have his left hand looked at, but he returned in the second half obviously looking no worse for wear.
Week 12 - Once again, the performance of Mathews was more about what could have been rather than what actually was. He was enjoying a solid day, with 65 yards from scrimmage on 16 touches, but missed the entirety of the 17-point fourth quarter outburst by San Diego with what was deemed a hamstring issue. Like last week, he was involved in the passing game early on with two first quarter receptions. And as the Chargers softened up the defense, the holes in the running game opened as well. On two occasions, he hit the second level of the defense hard and looked to be about to take it into the secondary, but his momentum was stopped cold. On one such run, he actually fumbled the ball (though he did manage to recover it himself). He was being utilized in all facets of the game, both on early downs and on short yardage runs later on in drives. Mathews went over the pile on a fourth and one run but managed to keep his footing to pick up a few more yards after the fact, showing very nice balance in the process. In the third quarter, he took a nice run off of left tackle to the outside and showed a quick burst to the edge. He was tackled down at the 1-yard line, and one has to wonder if he would have reached out to try and extend the ball over the goal line if he hadn't fumbled earlier. It didn't matter much, because on his next run he went WAY over the pile to leapfrog everyone for the touchdown. Unfortunately for Mathews owners, it would be his final highlight of the afternoon due to the hamstring injury.
Week 13 - Mathews came into the game still feeling the effects of a sore hamstring. While his stat line didn't 'wow' anybody, he certainly didn't look limited in any way by an injury. On one first half carry, he started out towards the otuside before making a hard inside cut. There were no issues with that play. Mathews later showed terrific acceleration on a swing pass up the left side. He caught it in stride and burst up the sideline for a nice first down gain. It was thought that Danny Woodhead and to a lesser extent Ronnie Brown might see a larger workload with Mathews less than 100%, but Mathews had 19 offensive touches compared to just nine for Woodhead and only one for Brown. With the Bengals leading for most of the second half, the Chargers kind of got away from the run game. They also had several promising drives stalled by turnovers, so it was difficult for him to really get into any kind of rhythm.
Week 14 - Most Mathews owners have complained about underuse this season. That wasn't an issue in this game, as he saw a whopping 32 touches from scrimmage (29 on the ground). Mathews fought hard for every yard he got, getting banged around inside for some tough gains. He took a number of big hits, but the player who has a reputation for being a fumbler managed to hang on every time. He also showed nice speed on a run off left tackle, finding a seam and showing excellent patience to get there. His fantasy performance was punctuated with a score early in the second half. Following a pass interference penalty called in favor of WR Vincent Brown put the ball on the 1-yard line, Mathews was given three opportunites to cross the goal line. He was stuffed on first down, pushed back from going over the pile on second down, and then waltzed in untouched on third down. He looked good in the passing game too. On one play, he took a short catch over the middle, easily shook a tackler, and turned the corner after shoving him away to pick up the first down. He turned a minimal gain into a first down in the process. He's been much more involved in the passing game the past month. There was even a designed screen pass to him to pick up 12 yards.
Week 15 - In a game that featured arguably the league's two leading MVP candidates, it was San Diego's efficiency on the ground and not through the air that won out. That's not to say Rivers played poorly; just that his passing prowess took a back seat to the rushing duties of Ryan Mathews and company. Rivers had almost no production after halftime, as the Chargers opted to pound the ball on the ground. They were having a lot of success doing it, and Denver seemingly couldn't stop them, so why bother doing anything else? Fortunately for Rivers owners, he managed to connect on a couple of scores with his favorite target, WR Keenan Allen, prior to halftime. The first touchdown was a phenomenal individual effort by Allen. He came across the field on a crossing route and took the easy pass from Rivers. But from there, he streaked towards the end zone, leapt over a defender, and bowled over yet another defender at the goal line to push his way in for the score. The second touchdown was likewise a very good effort from Allen, who made a nice adjustment on a slightly underthrown fade pass from Rivers near the end zone sideline. The pass was okay, but not really where it needed to be. Another pass that wasn't really where it needed to be was an end zone pass to TE Antonio Gates. He made a throw that was too high for the big tight end (actually nowhere near him) and was nearly intercepted. But aside from that, Rivers was mostly efficient in moving the ball. He had one instance of mixing it up with the defenders after a scramble in which his helmet was shoved after the play, but by this point it's almost expected for Rivers to talk trash with his opponents during the game.
Week 16 - Mathews' late-season surge has provided fantasy owners with hope that he hasn't been laid to waste in the San Diego backfield. He turned in yet another dynamic performance in this game, with 28 more touches from scrimmage while going over 100 total yards and a touchdown for the third consecutive game. In doing so, he established a new career high with 1,111 rushing yards on the season and has rendered Danny Woodhead almost an afterthought. Despite a dropped ball on an easy swing pass, Mathews has even gotten it done in the passing game, with three receptions for 20 yards to 3-16 for Woodhead. The Raiders played him tough, seemingly embarrassed after last week's performance against Kansas City. Because there were some vicious hits in the hole. But despite that, Mathews again never shied away from contact and gained the vast majority of his yardage up the middle. His touchdown run perfectly showcased the power and determination he has run with this season. He was initially bottled up, but spun off and burst back up the middle while breaking through some weak arm tackles to get into the end zone for the score. The second half featured some more nifty inside running, slipping through tackles and eluding would-be tacklers from all angles. As San Diego began taking control of the game, he burst into the secondary on a delayed handoff for a huge gain, picking up 38 yards on the play. He was limping a bit after a late third quarter run, but was able to return. Still, he was seen after the game with his foot in a boot so his status is officially unknown for next week's critical game against Kansas City.
Week 17 - Mathews had another monster game, albeit against mostly second-teamers. He had reportedly been suffering from a leg injury that he sustained in last week's game, and he did leave this contest on a few occasions limping a bit towards the sideline. But each time, he returned to the game showing no ill effects. His biggest play of the game came early on when he burst up the left side after breaking a tough tackle. He actually stumbled a bit once he reached the second level of the defense, which may have cost him the edge a little bit (and thus could have picked up even more yardage). But as it was, he went for 44 yards on the play. In previous seasons, it would have been a given that Mathews would come out of the game after such a run, but it's important to note that he remained in the game on the next play. In the second half, a lot of the holes that were there early on kind of closed up on him. Eventually though, as he continued to wear the defense down, those holes started opening back up. He busted into the open field for a 20-yard run after cutting against the grain for a big fourth quarter run, then had two critical runs up the middle (one of which converted a huge third and one) in the overtime session to help set up the game-winning field goal.
Week 18 - Mathews had a strong first half, gaining 52 yards and gouging the Cincy defense, which was highly ranked. He’s playing with heart, and he’s got the size, speed and ability that separates him from many rb’s. Mathews does a good job of running with vision as he showed on a toss to the right. He instantly cut back to the inside, and picked up 8 yards. On the same drive early on, he had another 6 yard run where he broke a tackle and kept his momentum moving forward. Mathews re-injured his ankle, however, and did not play in the second half. The loss was felt heavily as San Diego struggled to convert some key 3rd down runs on gains that Mathews likely would have closed out. Getting him back is going to be extremely important for San Diego if they hope to control the clock against Denver. If he’s not there, they will have to air it out, and as good as Rivers has been, it’s unlikely he can match Manning.
Week 19 - Ryan Mathews opened the game against Denver well, gaining 26 yards on 5 carries, but he still wasn’t fully recovered from his nagging ankle injuries and over-use down the stretch for the Chargers. After receiving 3 consecutive carries to open the second quarter, Mathews was pulled for Danny Woodhead and never returned to the game.