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This off-season has been full of speculation as to just how big a factor Ryan Mathews could be in dynasty leagues this year. After all, he really broke out last year and recorded his first 1,000 yard season (1,091 in total) to go along with 50 catches for 455 yards and six total touchdowns in 14 games. That was good enough to place him in the top ten in most leagues and his 4.9 yards per carry was good for third in the league amongst players with at least 200 carries.
The only trouble with Mathews has been the ongoing concern with minor injuries. He’s had his share of nicks in his career, but nothing was too significant or troublesome to raise too much of a red flag. The Chargers coaching staff has been talking up Mathews all off-season, stating he was in line for a huge workload, especially with the loss of backfield mate Mike Tolbert to Carolina. The only question was his ability to hold up over an entire season.
It lasted one carry.
Mathews broke his clavicle on his lone touch pictured above in the Chargers preseason opener against the Green Bay Packers last night and will reportedly be sidelined for 4-6 weeks. He’ll undergo surgery today and San Diego hopes to have him back in time for the season opener against the Raiders on on September 10th’s edition of Monday Night Football, but that seems to be a best case scenario.
So, now what?
The Chargers were fortunate enough to get Ronnie Brown in the off-season and it’s very possible he plays a significant role early in the season. Even if Mathews makes it back in time for the opener, he wouldn’t have seen the field for a month and likely wouldn’t be ready for true workhorse duties. If Brown is available in your league, he’s worth an immediate pickup as he’s obviously the favorite for early season carries competing with Jackie Battle, Curtis Brinkley, Edwin Baker and Michael Hayes. It’s doubtful the Chargers look outside for help since it’s so early in the preseason, but you never know. One thing is certain, though – the preseason games for the Chargers backfield just got a whole lot more interesting.
Meanwhile, the real concern here is Mathews long-term outlook. While this injury could have been much, much worse, it’s still a problem. At this point, you have to raise a red flag and be concerned that Mathews is looking a lot like Darren McFadden as an ultra-talented running back who may not be able to shake the injury bug. Mathews is currently the #4 running back in our rankings and he’ll likely move down a couple of spots behind the likes of Trent Richardson (a bit of an injury concern himself) and possibly even players like Matt Forte or Chris Johnson until he can prove he can handle a bigger workload.
However, this is no time to panic. You shouldn’t be looking to unload him in your league. If anything, you buy low from an owner who overreacts to the injury. This is not a torn ACL or torn patella tendon – it’s a simple shoulder injury. While it’s obviously more than just a contusion or sprain, this is far from a career threatening injury.
It’s a frustrating day for Mathews owners and a sobering reminder of the what can happen in a split second. Dynasty owners will all be very happy when the preseason is over and we can breathe a sigh of relief when our collective players are healthy and out of danger.
At least we hope they’re healthy.