In my mind, there is no gray area with Ryan Mathews and his broken clavicle—an injury that occurred on his first preseason carry Thursday night.
For Rounds 1-5 of standard-scoring and Points Per Reception-league drafts (non-keepers), he won't even be a consideration. That's the cold, hard truth of this significant setback.
Yes, I know team officials are speculating that it's a four-to-six week injury. But think about it for a minute: Can you recall many circumstances in the last 20 years where an offensive playmaker, college or pro, rebounded from a broken collarbone to post great numbers—and remain healthy—for the remainder of that particular season?
As a true freshman at Notre Dame in 1993, heralded quarterback Ron Powlus broke his collarbone and ended up sitting out (or redshirting) the season.
In October 2003, Lions rookie receiver Charles Rogers broke his collarbone and missed the remainder of that season. A year later, and on the heels of an excellent NFL preseason, he fractured his collarbone in Week 1 against the Bears and wasn't slated to return until Week 10 or 11.
But that prognosis changed for the worse after Rogers refractured the existing injury during an October practice, falling to the ground while engaged with Detroit cornerback Dre Bly on a one-on-one drill.
(WRITER'S NOTE: Reader Juan Joseph has astutely pointed out Marques Colston's 80-catch campaign in 2011, after incurring a collarbone injury in Week 1. Well played, Juan!)
Which brings me to this: Even if Mathews (1,546 total yards, six TDs last season) is ready to play by Oct. 1, he'll remain a prime candidate for re-injury every time he takes a clean, above-the-waist blast from a remorseless defender or crumples to the turf off a standard hard tackle. And no doctor in the world could probably guarantee otherwise.
That aside, it breaks my fantasy heart to see Mathews go down on such a harmless-looking play. If healthy, he would have been a reasonable lock for 1,600 total yards and nine touchdowns in 2012; and for PPR leagues, he might have finished the regular season as a top-five running back.
As for his draft status, I'd certainly consider Mathews (10 games of 100-plus total yards in 2011) for Rounds 6 and 7 (around the 65th pick). But for that to happen, he would automatically have to be my No. 4 running back.
As for those who already have Mathews on their roster (via the draft or keeper league), simply grit your teeth, say a few prayers and hope that my August pessimism becomes completely laughable by November.
In the meantime, find the best short-term Plan B amongst the lot of San Diego training-camp rushers: Curtis Brinkley, Jackie Battle, Le'Ron McClain, rookies Edwin Baker, Michael Hayes and Mohamed Marah or head coach Norv Turner's personal favorite, 30-year-old Ronnie Brown, who had 136 yards on 42 carries with Philly last year.
Jay Clemons can be reached on Twitter, day or night, at @ATL_JayClemons.