For all of the Charger fans who are still unhappy with the selection of Ryan Mathews, let me change your mind.
Mathews didn't receive much national attention until this past season. Thus, some fans still haven't become as familiar as they should with their favorite team's new running back.
One of the biggest misconceptions, even among analysts, is the belief that he wasn't the starting running back at Fresno State until last year. It is also believed that he faced inferior competition playing in the Western Athletic Conference.
Coming out of West High School in Bakersfield, CA, Mathews led the nation with almost 3,400 yards rushing and 44 touchdowns, bringing huge expectations from the moment he stepped on to campus at Fresno. As an honor, he was even allowed to wear 21, the retired number of Dale Messer.
During his first season, he became the Bulldog's top rushing threat and led all NCAA freshman in yards per carry and touchdowns. As a sophomore, he ranked in the top 10 in rushing yards and touchdowns through four games. In the fourth game against UCLA, he injured his knee and missed the remainder of the year.
This past season, as a junior, the country finally started to recognize his talent as he once again led the nation in rushing. He saw a huge increase in yards and touchdowns.
When he was healthy, he was the man in Fresno State's backfield.
If you believe Mathews didn't face top competition in the WAC itself, I agree. Other than Boise State being an annual powerhouse, it isn't the strongest conference. However, to say that he never faced top competition is crazy.
Year in and year out, no one schedules a tougher non-conference schedule than Fresno State. While top programs will schedule "cupcake" opponents at the beginning of the season, the Bulldogs will play anyone, anywhere. During his three years in college, he excelled against top teams such as Boise State, Cincinnati, Oregon, Texas A&M, UCLA, and Wisconsin.
Before trading up to the 12th spot in the draft, the Chargers decided that Mathews was the perfect selection for their organization. In their eyes—and the eye's of most scouts—he was the most complete running back in the draft. No one else had his combination of size and speed.
He possesses the strength to run through the line of scrimmage, lower his shoulder, and carry defenders three to four yards after initial contact. He also has the speed to outrun them to the end zone. In fact, last season he led college football with seven runs of 50 or more yards.
As for Mathews, he couldn't be in a better place. Since childhood, the Chargers have been one of his favorite teams. After high school, it was important for him to be close to family. That's why he chose Fresno State. After college, he was hoping to be drafted by a team on the west coast for the same reason.
He got his wish.
With immense talent and a desire to be the best, Mathews will not fail to impress.
If you haven't started to change your mind by now, just wait until the season begins!