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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
Alfred Morris leaves with knee injury, will return
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(2:06 pm ET) Redskins running back Alfred Morris was forced to briefly leave Sunday's game against the Eagles in the second quarter due to a knee injury.

Morris was pass-blocking when quarterback Kirk Cousins was knocked back into his knee. Morris had to be helped to the sidelines, where he was immediately tended to by trainers. Fortunately, the team announced prior to the start of the next drive.

Morris had 46 yards on 13 carries prior to the injury.


LeSean McCoy returns to game for next drive
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(1:57 pm ET) Eagles running back LeSean McCoy was taken to the locker room for observation after taking a shot to the helmet in the first quarter of Sunday's game against Washington, but was cleared to return shortly after. He returned to the game in the second quarter. 

Rod Streater leaves with foot injury
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(1:57 pm ET) Raiders wide receiver Rod Streater, who was questionable coming into the game with a hip injury, looked good for the first quarter-plus Week 3 at New England, catching three passes for 32 yards, but he limped off the field with a foot injury early in the second quarter and was carted to the locker room. His return is questionable.

Matt Cassel carted off with foot injury
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(1:52 pm ET) Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel ran up the middle for 5 yards on third-and-10 early in the second quarter Week 3 at New Orleans, but even if he had picked up the first down, it wouldn't have been good news for the Vikings. His foot bent awkwardly as he was going down, and he limped off the field with what appeared to be an ankle injury.

The Vikings carted Cassel to the locker room for X-rays on what they called a toe injury. Rookie Teddy Bridgewater took his place under center.


LeSean McCoy taken to locker room after helmet hit
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(1:49 pm ET) Eagles running back LeSean McCoy was forced to leave Sunday's game against Washington in Week 3, after taking a shot to the head.

McCoy was taken to the sidelines where he tried to plead with trainers to let him back in the game. He was taken to the locker room to be examined for a head injury, and at this point, nothing is known on his chances to return. 


Don Carey questionable to return
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(1:44 pm ET) Lions safety Don Carey is questionable to return Week 3 against the Packers.

Carey returned a fumble for a touchdown during the contest, but started having hamstring issues. He's considered questionable to return. 


Stephen Tulloch injures knee during celebration
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:42 pm ET) Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch injured his knee while celebrating Week 3 against the Packers.

After the Lions stopped the Packers offensive drive, Tulloch came up lame while celebrating the stop. He was able to walk off the field under his own power, but was tended to on the sideline. He's questionable to return. 


Danny Woodhead carted off, unable to return
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(1:36 pm ET) The short-handed Chargers backfield took another hit in Week 3, as Danny Woodhead was forced to leave Sunday's game against the Bills with an ankle injury.

Woodhead went down with an ankle injury on his first carry of the game, a 1-yard run, and had to be carted off the field after falling awkwardly. He was ruled out shortly after going to the locker room, and will likely undergo X-rays to determine the extent of the injury.

The Chargers are back in action in Week 4 against the Jaguars, and Woodhead's availability for next Sunday's game is obviously not known at this point. 


Duke Ihenacho exits with foot injury
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(1:29 pm ET) Redskins safety Duke Ihenacho was forced to leave Sunday's game against the Eagles in the first quarter with a foot injury, and his return is officially questionable.

It is not clear if the injury is related to the ankle issue Ihenacho was dealing with in practice. 


Danny Woodhead carted off with first-quarter ankle injury
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(1:22 pm ET) Chargers running back Danny Woodhead was forced to leave Sunday's game against the Bills in the first quarter, after suffering a right ankle injury.

Woodhead was injured on his first carry of the game, a 1-yard run that saw him go down awkwardly while being tackled. He is officially questionable to return, however he also hard to be carted off the field and to the locker room, a sign that the injury might be a serious one.  


 
 
 
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