San Diego Chargers: Early Ryan Mathews Fantasy Preview

Alex RamirezCorrespondent IJuly 5, 2012

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 05:  Running back Ryan Mathews #24 of the San Diego Chargers rushes with the ball against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on December 5, 2011 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

ESPN Top 300: 12

ESPN Top RB: 6

Ryan Mathews has become a big name in terms of fantasy already this season. Many experts and sites are predicting that he'll be a breakout star. He has all the capability to do so. Last season, he was around a top 10-15 running back depending what type of league you were in.

The reason Mathews hasn't been a top-five running back is because of Mike Tolbert. If you've followed my writing, you know that I had strong dislike for the amount Tolbert played last season. Tolbert was used more than Mathews in both the red zone and on third down, taking away from Mathews' fantasy production.

This season will be different. Tolbert is gone, and LeRon McClain is in. Fullbacks make a big difference. LaDainian Tomlinson didn't have one good season after Lorenzo Neal left the Chargers.

The Chargers will have a balanced offense this year. The passing game will not take a huge hit with the loss of Vincent Jackson—it's actually much better. Eddie Royal will be an X-factor by opening up the field with his routes down the middle, and Meachem and Floyd will be vertical threats to open up the field on draw plays for Mathews.

Injuries could change your opinion on Ryan Mathews. In his first two years, he hasn't played all 16 games. There's no predicting Mathews' health this season, but his value is worth the risk.

There's different levels of running backs this year. Don't take Mathews before Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy or Ray Rice. But after that comes the decision: Do you take Mathews over Maurice Jones Drew? It's a tough question, but I think the answer is yes.

Ryan Mathews should go around No. 8, but he probably will go around 10-12. If you can get him around 10-12, it'll be a huge steal.