Ryan Mathews: Chargers RB Is Fantasy Must-Start vs. Saints

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistOctober 4, 2012

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 18:  Running back Ryan Mathews #24 of the San Diego Chargers carries the ball in the third quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at Qualcomm Stadium on December 18, 2011 in San Diego, California. The Chargers defeated the Ravens 34-14.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

If ever there was a week that you wanted to own Ryan Mathews in your fantasy league, or any other San Diego Chargers running back, this would be it. 

Whenever you see the New Orleans Saints on the schedule, you have to be salivating at the possibilities. Through four games, their defense is giving up nearly 187 yards per game on the ground. 

After missing the first two games of the season with a broken clavicle, Mathews has slowly been working his way back into the Chargers offense. He had 10 carries for 44 yards in Week 3 and 14 for 61 on Sunday. 

The reins should come off this week. Mathews looks ready to be the feature back once again, and the Saints have done nothing to convince anyone they can stop the running game. 

However, there does seem to be some reluctance by the Chargers to get Mathews the ball as much as possible, most notably because of his problems protecting the football. 

Kevin Acee of the UT-San Diego recently wrote that there has to be a limit to how much the team can accept from Mathews given his overall performance since being drafted three years ago. 

Still gushing about Mathews’ ability and all the things the 24-year-old running back did right Sunday (in Week 3 vs. Atlanta), there was also an ominous sort of resignation in Smith’s voice earlier this week.

Speaking from his East Coast hotel room, where he was stopping over during a scouting trip, (General Manager A.J.) Smith’s message was that there won’t be too many more fumbles by Mathews in a Chargers uniform.

Fumbles are crippling for any skill player, particularly a running back, since a starter is usually touching the ball between 250-300 times per year. 

However, the Saints have to physically wrap up Mathews in order for him to drop the ball, and there is no evidence they are capable of doing that. 

The fewest rush yards the Saints have allowed in game this season was 102 last week against Green Bay, a team that runs the ball on just 36 percent of its offensive plays. 

Fantasy owners have high expectations for Mathews when he is healthy. He is back on the right track, but just needs more opportunities to show what he can do. 

Jackie Battle has the most carries (32) of any running back on the Chargers roster, and has a very good 5.1 yards per carry average. However, that is skewed because of a 52-yard run against Atlanta that gave him 55 yards on just three carries in that game. 

Mathews is the most talented running back on the roster. He is healthy and ready to dominate in ways that Battle isn't capable of. He has the right matchup to shine. Fantasy owners should be thrilled with the production they see from Mathews this weekend.