Ryan Mathews: Why Chargers RB's Fantasy Value Has Flatlined

Richard LangfordCorrespondent IOctober 3, 2012

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 30:  Running back Ryan Mathews #24 of the San Diego Chargers rushes up field against pressure from linebacker Derrick Johnson #56 of the Kansas City Chiefs during the fourth quarter on September 30, 2012 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  San Diego defeated Kansas City 37-20.  (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)
Peter Aiken/Getty Images

San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews enjoyed elite fantasy running back status entering this season, and he promptly fumbled it away.

Mathews lost a big fumble in Week 3 as the Chargers were getting whooped by the Atlanta Falcons. Taken in isolation, one fumble is not that big of deal, but Mathews has a history of fumbling.

He now has 11 fumbles in the 404 carries in his three-year career.

Combine the fumbling issues with his injury problems, he missed the first two weeks this year after injuring himself on his first carry of the preseason, and you have a back that can't be trusted on the NFL field or the fantasy realm. 

Case in point was the Chargers' Week 4 contest against the Kansas City Chiefs. 

Check out this stat by stat by Rotoinfo.com, "Jackie Battle led the Chargers in offensive snaps on Sunday (Week 4) with 27, compared to Ryan Mathews' 21 and Ronnie Brown's 14."

That's right, Mathews took a backseat to Jackie Battle last week, and he gained 61 yards on 14 carries as a result. 

Now, this doesn't mean he will be playing second fiddle to Battle all season. Battle was going against his former team in that game, and coach Norv Turner may have just used that game as an opportunity to drive home the point to Mathews that he has to clean up his fumbling problem. 

However, it does showcase the shaky standing Mathews has on this team. Mathews is clearly mired in a situation where it will be more running back by committee than a lead back paving the way, and no fantasy owner wants to play a back who is stuck sharing carries in the backfield. 

The big kicker here is that Battle is likely to be the preferred option near the goal line. Not only does he not have Mathews' fumbling issues, but he is the bigger, more bruising option. 

The Chargers have some favorable matchups on deck, including the Saints defense (or lack thereof) coming up next, but I wouldn't start Mathews if you have other options you are confident in.