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Depth Charge

Elusive. Coveted. Necessary. There are literally a hundred words you could think of when describing the value of a truly elite running back. As much as we all hate to admit it, a single star at the position can make or break a dynasty league team in any given season. To get one, we use our high first round start-up draft picks or trade the house for them in an existing league. While their shelf-life is typically much shorter than that of the elite receivers, the short burst of consistent and elite production they give us can be all the difference in hoisting the trophy or throwing up after another lost year.

There are many names at the top of ranking lists for dynasty leagues this season. The usual suspects are typically Ray Rice, Arian Foster and LeSean McCoy. After all, they’ve all shown the ability to put up monster statistics and carry a given dynasty team through long stretches of the season. The trick now is finding out who the next great scoring running back will be and projecting him to be the magical player who can climb your depth chart to be a truly elite RB1 instead of just a solid weekly performer.

This year, the hottest name on the list of candidates may be none other than Ryan Mathews of the San Diego Chargers.

Make no mistake, Mathews is already a highly coveted player in dynasty circles. He broke through last season 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 stat line 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 question most dynasty league owners are asking is, “Can he somehow score another 100 points and join the true top tier of fantasy running backs?”

Let’s examine those chances.

First, Mathews has always been a big part of a committee in San Diego. After all, Mike Tolbert was a key to the Chargers success and was extremely productive himself, rushing for more than 1,200 yards over the past two seasons. With Tolbert taking his talents closer to Myrtle Beach, the Chargers are setting themselves up to rely more heavily on Mathews than ever before. Some outlets are predicting over 350 carries could be coming, which would undoubtedly be among the league leaders. His Head Coach, Norv Turner, has been gushing about him and has never been shy about riding a running back for the season – we’ve seen him do it before with the likes of Emmitt Smith and LaDainian Tomlinson, among others.

The great thing about Mathews is his capability to do everything on the field. He can gain the tough yards, but can also hit a seam and take it the distance. Throw in his ability to catch the football and you have to consider it’s not out of the question for him to flirt with 60-70 catches next year – combine that with his expected rushing total and that’s the recipe for fantasy greatness. With Philip Rivers at the controls, Robert Meachem stretching the field and Antonio Gates finally healthy enough to warrant a ton of attention again, it’s tough to see defenses selling out to stop the run. Put all this together and the sky truly is the limit for his potential in both fantasy and reality.

By all accounts, Mathews himself is taking this potential opportunity very seriously. Teammates are saying he’s completely healthy and looks like he’s in the best shape of his life. In short, he’s working tirelessly to be ready for the season. This is news not to be taken lightly because Mathews had a few nagging ailments last season, including a groin injury, a sore knee and a calf strain that caused him to miss some time. There are relevant questions about his ability to hold up during an entire season and those simply won’t be answered until we see it happen. The good news is none of the injuries are chronic or have been severe enough to raise any permanent red flags.

There are many candidates out there who could be the next elite fantasy running back. You could make an argument for players like Trent Richardson, Darren McFadden and a host of others as likely candidates to join the ranks of the coveted first tier of fantasy running backs.

Ironically, the player most like to make that charge may just be a Charger himself.

Ken Kelly
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10 years ago

i’m feeling pretty good here. i originally drafted mathews as a rookie. i took a chance and traded percy harvin straight up for mcfadden at the end of last season. and i traded wallace and my 1.09 for the 1.01 and drafted richardson. these guys are my core at rb to start this year. wr i have calvin, welker, vincent brown, and drafted rueben randle 2nd round. when you read an article like this it gets the blood pumping and you start to feel excited for the season. i feel the exact same about mathews also. great read.

Jimmy Graham Cracker
Reply to  bigD
10 years ago

Cool story, bro.

barry melrose
Reply to  Jimmy Graham Cracker
10 years ago

No one cares

suchislife
Reply to  bigD
10 years ago

with those trades you made you are a true thief in the night

sixshooter
10 years ago

I think the biggest question when it comes to Matthews is his ability to make it through a season without suffering an injury which causes him to miss significant playing time because he has missed a few games and playing time both years he has been in the NFL but when he is healthy, the guy looks like a top five back for sure so if he can stay healthy……I believe it is almost a given that he will be right up there with the better backs in the league!

I also think that DeMarco Murray is a guy to keep an eye on because he looked incredible the little bit we saw of him last year before getting injured. Can’t wait for the NFL season to begin!!!

Marc Modelski
Reply to  Ken Kelly
10 years ago

Vareen and Williams (at least pre-injury) have more upside in their pinkie finger than Martin. Check his 2011 stats. Pathetic against great defenses, bad against good defenses, and well above average good against terrible defenses.

Played against the 57, 76, 90, 101, 84, 70, 106, 98, 112, and 88 ranked defense in COLLEGE and could only muster 4.7 ypc. All scouts agree he does nothing elite. How is this upside?

Squid
10 years ago

I went trade crazy this off season. Now I have mcfadden, Lynch, Matthew, Charles, and Chris Johnson at RB. A.J Green, Britt, vjax, stevie johnson, jacson in philly, and my sleeper for the year Baldwin. With peyton running the show hoping i could a title this year.

Reply to  Squid
10 years ago

Doug or Jon Baldwin?

Squid
Reply to  Luke Bouchard
10 years ago

Jon

Jimmy Graham Cracker
Reply to  Squid
10 years ago

Do you play in a 6-team league?

tony baily
Reply to  Jimmy Graham Cracker
10 years ago

or 8 team

10 years ago

While I appreciate the effort, I feel that Mathews’ price tag is already in the elite range. What about RBs who could develop into elite, top tier backs but don’t carry the price yet? Guys like Murray, Martin, Spiller(maybe too small), Helu, etc.

Cyrus
Reply to  Ken Kelly
10 years ago

In my leagues, Mathews and Richardson are valued in that second tier along with MJD and Chris Johnson. Due to youth, Mathews and Richardson probably have the most value in that tier.

I’m hoping someone surprises us, I have Martin, Vereen and Ryan Williams as sleepers, but I only really think Martin has a chance at that kind of upside. (Too bad i traded Murray last year)

Marc Modelski
Reply to  Cyrus
10 years ago

Posted this in the wrong spot. Sorry.

Vareen and Williams (at least pre-injury) have more upside in their pinkie finger than Martin. Check his 2011 stats. Pathetic against great defenses, bad against good defenses, and, well, above average good against terrible defenses.

Played against the 57, 76, 90, 101, 84, 70, 106, 98, 112, and 88 ranked defense in COLLEGE and could only muster 4.7 ypc. All scouts agree he does nothing elite. How is this upside?

10 years ago

I think Matthews hype is almost equal to the price tag he’s getting… He’s going mid first in most drafts, he went for almost as much as the elite RB’s in my dynasty league… I agree he has a super high ceiling, but there are no bargains for him… I think TRich is one of the best bargain RBs with a high ceiling. He’s going mid-late 2nd in redrafts… He could lead the league in touches… I also think Lynch is a bargain. Everyone is down on him and saying he got paid and will bust. I think there is value grabbing him as a low RB1 High RB2… On a side note, as I understand the “cool story bro” comments it is quite rude and not necessary. We all look for validation and support, otherwise we wouldn’t use these sites…

SJ
Reply to  Bill Latin
10 years ago

One back who is going dirt cheap is AP. While I understand the concerns, he is still worth something as he looks likely to play. Most owners want nothing to do with him. I’ve seen him out of the top 20 at rb.

Chris Russell
10 years ago

Exactly. It just appears some people like to use the site to bully and belittle opinion rather than offer constructive feedback.

The “do you play with 4th graders?” comments are unnecessary and unwelcome by the majority.

Want to anonymously bash, do it on twitter. Youre not being funny anyway.

Jon
Reply to  Chris Russell
10 years ago

Well a good portion of the fantasy community is former athletes that couldn’t make it so this kinda of behavior should be expected

Sensei John Kreese
Reply to  Jon
10 years ago

I respectfully disagree. Everyone here is competitive.I know that I am. I wouldn’t be paying money for fantasy advice if I weren’t. If I had traded, let’s say, Frank Gore and a second round pick for Lesean Mccoy, and came in here and gloated about it….Well, then I would fully expect people to criticize. Trades like that undermine the legitimacy and integrity of your league. I realized early that part of playing fantasy is calling out bad trades, and occasionally talking a bit of good natured smack. Sounds like that you guys just need to chill out a bit and to try not to get offended so easily. That being said, I would admit that the “cool story bro” comment rubbed me the wrong way as well, as the original comment did not come across with any sarcasm or rancor.

What I am saying, is that if your league is not competitive, and ridiculously skewed trades happen frequently, that your league and my league don’t operate under the same level of competition. Thus, our leagues have nothing in common. The same way you are offended by people calling out bad trades, I am offended by certain people taking time out to tell everyone else on DLF how ridiculously good their team is, based on the general lethargy of the other owners in their league. Dynasty leagues which are run by, or influenced by, ignorant, absent or collusive owners aren’t fun. So, If i call out a trade which is obviously one-sided, that is really me suggesting that you play in a BS league. Sorry if that offends anyone.

Reply to  Sensei John Kreese
10 years ago

when i originally posted my first post, it was not put there to gloat or any thing of the nature. our league is a aution based keeper. we have a yearly $100 salary cap, and i’ve had to wheel and deal and redraft and FA pickups well into the dawn hours of many mornings to get this team. the guys that play in this league are not stupid, lathargic, or ignorant by any means. trades are usually made because of salary cap considerations, so i was able to spike those at the right time. i, as most everyone always second guesses their trades, and when i read abou the exact 3 guys that i targeted, it validated my confidence in my moves. i was just stating that in my posts as i can read here that most of you understand my enthuesiasum for the article. it makes me feel good about my moves and i agree with the article author????? thanks for havin my back SJK……..the cool story bro was ????? not sure about it? oh well.

Wayne
10 years ago

What are your thoughts on JCharles returning from injury and becoming one of the elite RBs again?

Chris R.
10 years ago

I’m one of the few who have traded for Mathews and traded him away also.

1 team I had great depth with Ray Rice and Arian Foster at RB so I moved Mathews for Demarco Murray and pick 1.05. Now I will say that this was early into the off-season and hype hadn’t picked up much steam yet.

Now in another league I hadn’t won the ship yet and I wanted to go all out I moved MJD, Jamaal Charles, Tampa Mike for Ryan Mathews. Now admittedly this was a huge price, and risk for myself to take. But I have Arian Foster to pair him with there, and Demarco Murray on the bench, and if I can win a ring it’ll be well worth the prize. This was later in the off-season so obviously MJD wasn’t enough.

The price range and trade value has been all over. I have no problem paying to get him though, I think he’ll be worth it as this off-season couldn’t have gone any better for him. I’m slightly wishing I held onto him in the original league but depending how it pans out with my pick, and with Murray I could be in a better situation.

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