Ryan Mathews Injury: Chargers RB Remains Solid Fantasy Option

John Rozum@Rozum27Correspondent IAugust 14, 2012

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 05:  Ryan Mathews #24 of the San Diego Chargers breaks away for a touchdown during a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on December 5, 2011 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Ryan Mathews may be sidelined for the time being, but his optimism gives a sense of relief regarding fantasy football.

As written by Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune:

One of Ryan Mathews' goals this season is to play every game.

Despite a broken clavicle, that hasn't changed.

"I think I heal pretty fast," Mathews, 24, said. "I think I'll be good in time to play against the Raiders. ... I'm happy it happened now than against the Raiders. It's better that it happened now, just to get it out of the way. It gives me a few weeks to recover and get back at it."

So whether you already have or have yet to partake in a fantasy draft this season, let's break down Mathews to get rid of the paranoia that exists due to his injury.


Main Man in the Backfield

Last season, Mike Tolbert stole quite a bit of Mathews' thunder with 122 carries, 54 receptions (79 targets), 923 total yards and 11 touchdowns.

Now, Mathews is the sole every-down back in San Diego, and once the season begins, Ronnie Brown won't see the field too often. Despite Tolbert's contributions, Mathews still managed to compile over 1,500 total yards and score six times in 14 games.

The 2012 season provides more promise because Mathews has tasted impressive production. He remains a reliable dual-threat back and will see more carries and receptions this fall.

After all, the greater number of opportunities Mathews has to produce, the more his fantasy value increases as well.


Unproven Rush Defenses in 2012

Here is why Mathews is slated to perform emphatically and consistently well during his third season.

The Bolts face the entire NFC South along with the obvious divisional games. Well, right there are 10 contests in which Mathews can really see inflated numbers. A year ago, the Broncos, Chiefs and Raiders all ranked No. 22 or lower against the run and allowed an average of 4.1 yards per carry (Oakland dead last at 5.1).

New Orleans, Carolina, Tampa Bay and Atlanta were even worse from an overall perspective. The Saints and Buccaneers allowed five yards per carry, while the Panthers (4.6) and the Falcons (4.2) weren't much better.

Yes, everyone has definitely made additions in the hope of improving this facet. However, each still has to actually get it done in the trenches. Now, the tougher games on the ground will come against the AFC North, which is a division controlled by defense.

On the bright side, Cleveland remains susceptible, while Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cincinnati were all literally run over on the ground in the postseason. Mathews won't crush in these games, but he'll see better production than anticipated.

Tennessee and the New York Jets are San Diego's other two opponents, and neither are a huge threat. Gang Green is likely to be the Bolts' toughest challenge in the trenches, but the Titans—who allowed 4.5 yards per carry in 2011—are in the same boat as the NFC South and AFC West: unproven.

Bolts' Bolstered Passing Game

Vincent Jackson may be out of the picture, but QB Philip Rivers has a new array of targets to spread the field with.

Guys like Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal will be excellent complements to tight end Antonio Gates and other receivers Malcom Floyd and Vincent Brown. What this means for Mathews is that defenses can't and won't stack the box against him.

San Diego has too many receiving targets capable of defeating single coverage, and a linebacker zone will be necessary to blanket over the middle. In turn, Mathews may not break away too many 20-plus-yard runs, but he'll hit five to 10 yards more often than not.

Then when the defense does try to isolate him, Rivers can dish the rock around through the air and connect with Mathews on screens and checkdowns.

The Bolts offense may not revolve around him, but his contributions are extremely vital to fielding a balanced yet explosive attack.


Follow John Rozum on Twitter.