The Chargers' first-year general manager Tom Telesco has not been shy in hyping up running back Ryan Mathews . He says that despite numerous injuries and three disappointing seasons, Mathews can still be an every-down back. The Chargers' previous regime, led by general manager A.J. Smith, thought the same. That's why they traded up in the first round to take Mathews at No. 12 overall in the 2010 draft. But Chargers beat writer Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego said Tuesday that Mathews just isn't the type of player Telesco is hoping for.
"I would say Ryan Mathews can't be the player the Chargers envisioned when they drafted him in 2010, and that was the pretty clear sense I was getting at the end of last season before he broke his collarbone for the second time. I think even before then, it was very clear," Gehlken said on FootballGuys.com's "The Audible" podcast.
"He's been in the league for three years now, and you can count the number of third-down receptions that he's had over his career on two hands. This was a guy who the Chargers traded up 15 spots in the first round to get because A.J. Smith believed he was getting a three-down back. And three-down backs have more than six receptions on third down in three years."
Gehlken also mentioned that Mathews still isn't a serviceable blocker, and that there has been miscommunication between Mathews and quarterback Philip Rivers on short pass routes.
Enter former Patriots running back Danny Woodhead , who Gehlken said is going to be a big part of the Chargers' offense this season because "Danny Woodhead is just better in a lot of areas than Ryan Mathews."
Gehlken even added a word for fantasy owners who are interested in drafting Woodhead this season: "If you are in a PPR league, go for it."
The Chargers' brass can talk all they want, but Gehlken is correct. Even when healthy, Mathews is a very incomplete player. Letting Woodhead handle the third-down duties will make this running game better. The Chargers first need to get better results out of their dreadful offensive line, but that's another story.
Woodhead will probably catch 40-50 passes in San Diego's short-passing game and handle at least another 70-80 carries. That puts him in bye-week flex territory in standard leagues, but his PPR value is obviously higher.
Mathews has proved so fragile and undependable, fantasy owners are just about fed up with him. Although he will start the year as a clear lead running back, Mathews is barely an RB2 in 12-team leagues, according to the latest ADP reports on MockDraftCentral.com. At this point, you're almost expecting something to break or tear the next time he falls down.