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2012 Draft Prep: Mathews won't disappoint

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Say the name Ryan Mathews to a Fantasy owner and you're likely to get a polarizing response. He is a running back some owners love, while others approach with caution.

Mathews is entering his third year in the NFL, but this will be his first season as a featured running back for the Chargers and coach Norv Turner. That's a great thing, but some owners remain worried about his injury history and perceived ability to underachieve.

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We say those concerns are bogus, and Mathews is about to break out with the best season of his career. The prediction here is Mathews will finish 2012 as a Top 5 Fantasy running back.

So far, Mathews is saying all the right things. He recently told the Union-Tribune San Diego that his goal this year is "to shut everyone up" with the people who doubt him. And judging by a recent poll on Twitter, there are still plenty of doubters out there.

I posed this question to my Twitter followers: When would you draft Mathews this year? Give me the overall draft pick you would feel comfortable with him.

Keep in mind that I have Mathews ranked as the No. 4 running back and No. 4 overall pick behind Arian Foster, Ray Rice and LeSean McCoy. I would draft him ahead of Aaron Rodgers based on the quality of depth at quarterback compared to the slim pickings of featured running backs.

The results of the poll were 43 said they would draft him Top 5 overall, 73 said they would take him later in the first round and 25 said they would only draft him in the second round or later.

Two negative responses that stood out were by @Elyiggy, who wrote "been burned by Mathews EVERY YEAR he's been a pro. He's off my Fantasy board." And @MattySuzuki, who wrote "I do not think he is durable enough, so he is off my radar."

That's the kind of attitude Mathews is trying to change.

"I worked on a lot of little things that kept me on the sideline at times over the past few seasons," Mathews told the North County Times. "I don't ever want to come off the field. I want to be the best guy for every situation. I know I can handle a heavy workload and be that three-down back people believe I can be. That's what I've been preparing myself for all offseason. It drives me every day, to be the best player I can be."

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Mathews was actually pretty good in 2011. He finished as the No. 8 Fantasy running back in standard leagues, and that was sharing touches with Mike Tolbert. Mathews played in 14 games and finished with 222 carries for 1,091 yards and six touchdowns and 50 catches for 455 yards. He had nine games with double digits in Fantasy points.

Mathews was one of eight running backs with at least 50 catches, and he could be a Top 3 running back in receptions since Tolbert had 54 grabs last season. That makes Mathews a tremendous option in PPR leagues.

Tolbert also had 121 carries for 490 yards and eight touchdowns, and he had 433 receiving yards and two touchdowns. The majority of that production should go to Mathews since the Chargers backup running backs are Ronnie Brown, Jackie Battle and Curtis Brinkley. Turner is ready to lean on Mathews for a heavy workload.

"The impressive thing about Ryan is that he has overcome every obstacle put in front of him," Turner said to the San Diego media. "He's gotten better each step of the way over the last two years. I'm like every Chargers fan, and I'd like to see him do well from day one. In this league, that's not realistic. Ryan has come a long way, and he's excited about the season. I'll be excited to watch him go."

Turner knows a thing or two about great running backs, having coached the likes of LaDainian Tomlinson, Emmitt Smith and Ricky Williams as a head coach or coordinator. All three are former rushing champions, and Turner also coached Frank Gore to his breakout season in 2006.

Mathews will be the next great running back added to Turner's resume. He is going to be a breakout Fantasy option, and you should feel confident drafting him as a Top 5 overall pick in the majority of leagues. He will live up to the hype.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg and on Facebook .

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Player News
Nearly all on Chiefs injury report deemed probable
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(5:05 pm ET) The Chiefs have landed double-figures on their injury report for the Sunday night game against Denver, but only wideout Junior Hemingway (concussion) is set to sit. Cornerback Chris Owens (knee/abdomen) and defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson (calf) are questionable while the other seven are probable.

That group consists of wideout Donnie Avery (groin), punter Dustin Conquitt (calf), tight end Anthony Fasano (knee), defensive back Jamell Fleming (hamstring), linebacker Tamba Hali (knee), cornerback Sean Smith (groin) and offensive lineman Donald Stephenson (shoulder).


Rams will determine Chris Long's playing status Saturday
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(4:59 pm ET) Rams coach Jeff Fisher told reporters that a decision on whether or not defensive end Chris Long will play will be made over "the next couple of days," according to the team's official website. Long, currently on the short-term injured reserve list with an ankle injury, would need to be activated by 4 p.m. ET time on Saturday in order to have a chance to play Week 13 against Oakland.

"I think he had his best day of practice today," Fisher said. "We're going to discuss it this afternoon. If we make a decision, we'll probably make a decision tomorrow."


Fox speaks encouragingly about status of Broncos TE Thomas
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It remains to be seen if plays Sunday night against the host Chiefs.


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(4:40 pm ET) The Rams unveiled a lengthy injury report which included 14 players on the list for Sunday's game against the Raiders.

Rookie cornerback Marcus Roberson (ankle) was unable to practice all week and was the only player on the report ruled as doubtful. Defensive end Eugene Sims missed practice all week due to a death in the family, but is expected to play, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He was deemed as probable. Defensive back Lamarcus Joyner (groin) and defensive tackle Alex Carrington (thigh) are questionable.

Meanwhile, the following players were designated as probable: Center Scott Wells (rest), defensive end Robert Quinn (rest) and guard Davin Joseph (rest), linebacker James Laurinaitis (ankle), wide receiver Kenny Britt (back), cornerback E.J. Gaines (knee), tight end Cory Harkey (thigh), tight end Jared Cook (back), linebacker Will Herring (foot) and linebacker Alec Ogletree


Texans RB Arian Foster all but set to play in Week 13
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:32 pm ET) Texans featured back Arian Foster appears ready to roll Sunday against Tennessee. He has been deemed probable with a groin issue that had him sidelined the last two games.

Foster returns needing 178 yards rushing to hit 1,000 for the first time since 2012. He played in just eight games last season.


Probables make up most of injury report issued by Texans
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(4:29 pm ET) The typically lengthy injury report released Friday by the Texans for their Sunday game against Tennessee has confirmed that linebacker Jadeveon Clowney (knee) will not play. Neither will cornerback Kareem Jackson (knee). Linebacker Akeem Dent (neck) is questionable.

The other players on the report are probable. They are linebackers Jeff Tarpinian (knee), Max Bullough (hamstring), Brian Cushing (knee) and Mike Mohamed (hip), cornerbacks Darryl Morris (thigh) and Johnathan Joseph (knee), tackle Tyson Clabo (foot), running back Arian Foster (groin) and safeties D.J. Swearinger (ankle) and Kendrick Lewis (knee).


Questionables dominate injury report issued by Patriots
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(4:22 pm ET) Eleven Patriots are on their injury report for their Sunday game against Green Bay, but none have been deemed any worse than questionable.

Eight have been given that designation, including running back Shane Vereen (ankle). The others are long snapper Danny Aiken (concussion), offensive linemen Dan Connolly (ankle) and Cameron Fleming (ankle/finger), defensive linemen Chandler Jones (hip) and Dominique Easley (knee), wideout Brandon LaFell (shoulder) and linebacker Chris White (ankle).

The probables are headlined by quarterback Tom Brady (ankle) and wide receiver Julian Edelman (thigh). The other is offensive lineman Marcus Cannon (hip).


Stanton, Brown, Ellington among probables for Cardinals in Week 13
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(4:15 pm ET) The Cardinals ruled Kenny Demens (hamstring) and Ed Stinson (toe) out for Sunday's game against Atlanta. Larry Fitzgerald, who is dealing with a MCL sprain, is the only player on Arizona's list deemed questionable. Coach Bruce Arians told reporters Fitzgerald will be a game-time call.

Meanwhile, the following players were designated as probable: Lorenzo Alexander (knee), Marcus Benard (shoulder), John Brown (teeth), Andre Ellington (hip, foot) and Drew Stanton (ankle).


Jaguars healthy for Week 13 game against visiting Giants
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(4:09 pm ET) The Jaguars are not in good shape in the standings, but they are in good shape otherwise. All eight players on their Friday injury report at questionable or probable.

The former category consists of linebackers LaRoy Reynolds (neck) and Jeremiah George (ankle). The probables are quarterback Blake Bortles (wrist), defensive ends Andre Branch (groin) and Chris Clemons (knee), safety Josh Evans (elbow), cornerback Demetrius McCray (ankle) and wideout Cecil Shorts (illness).


Only one Titans player ruled out for Sunday
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(4:04 pm ET) Eight Titans have landed on their injury report for the Sunday game in Houston, but only linebacker Kamerion Wimbley (hamstring) has been ruled out. The others are at least questionable.

Placed in that category are safety Michael Griffin (shoulder), defensive back Marqueston Huff (hamstring) and tackles Taylor Lewan (ankle) and Michael Oher (toe). Neither tackle has practiced this week.

The probables are running backs Dexter McCluster (concussion) and Leon Washington (hamstring), as well as cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson (back).


 
 
 
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