By Jay Myers

Today we’ll showcase one of my favorite breakout RBs in dynasty football.  Mathews is getting a ton of love in certain circles, but yet he is doubted by just as many in other circles.  I’ve been trying to help promote the hype-train all off-season since before Tolbert left for Carolina. I was ecstatic to see Tolbert leave which made his situation that much better.  The NFL draft came and went without the drafting of a top RB, another big win for Mathews.  Then the team signed an old over the hill Ronnie Brown with no explosiveness which was the cherry on the top for me personally.  Brown just gives the team confidence that if something happens to Mathews they have a seasoned Vet to turn to.

It happens every year, there is writing on the wall that tells us what is about to happen in the up-coming season for a specific player.  For some reason certain folks choose to find any reason possible to discount them, the only possible knock here is that some folks think that Mathews could miss a game or two due to his injury history.

I along with many others took a chance on Stafford last year, why though?  He had missed huge chunks of the previous two seasons with reoccurring shoulder issues.  I’ll tell you why, it’s the possibility for elite play at the QB position.  Why not take a chance and roll the dice on a player that could be a top-5 QB?!?!  Those that took the chance that it would finally come together for the ultra-talented QB were rewarded with a top-5 QB season from Stafford.  This situation is a little different in the fact that Stafford’s ADP was a no-brainer compared to Mathew’s mid-first round price tag.  But we’ll take a closer look at Mathew’s situation and why we love it so much.

Some will argue that Mathew’s ADP is too risky, but every player has certain risks.  Some are taking a somewhat unproven Julio who missed a few games himself before Fitz in dynasty start-ups even though he hasn’t produced a single season of superior stats than Fitz.  Why would anyone do that?  When players flash that elite play-making ability and you see other signs that when added together make a certain formula for elite success sometimes you don’t argue you just jump on the train and hit full-throttle.  You’ll hear me say this often, but past stats don’t equal future success, you must have forward thinking in an ever-changing landscape of fantasy football.  Julio has just as many reasons why I like him as I do Mathews, but that is an article for another time in the near future.

Lets take a look at the stats from last season, there are a lot of numbers that need to be replaced by somebody in ’12.

2011 Stats – Mathews (7th in PPR)

222 carries for 1,091 yards, 6 TDs and 4.91 yards per clip

50 catches for 455 yards, 0 TDs and 9.1 yards per catch on 59 targets

2011 Stats – Tolbert (16th in PPR)

120 carries for 492 yards, 8 TDs and 4.1 yards per clip

54 catches for 433 yards, 2 TDs and 8 yards per catch on 79 targets

 2011 Stats – Total combined stats between Mathews and Tolbert

342 carries for 1,583 yards, 14 TDs and 4.63 yards per clip

104 catches for 888 yards, 2 TDs and 8.5 yards per catch on 138 targets

Stats Analysis: I’m not saying Mathews will pick up 100% of Tolbert’s workload, but I think from what the coaches have stated that he’ll get the majority of those touches.  Even half would put him in elite company.  If we were to extrapolate Mathews season with half of Tolbert’s touches it would give us the following production. 1,337 yards rushing, 10 rushing TDs, 77 catches for 672 yards, 1 TD on 98 targets.  For fantasy scoring purposes that would give us 134 pts + 60 pts + 77 pts + 67 pts + 6 pts = giving us a total of 344 fantasy points in ’11 behind only Ray Rice who had 371 points (I referenced a standard PPR scoring league of mine).

What about the coaching staff, what do they think will happen in ’12?

Quote 1 – “Coach Turner’s coached a lot of great backs,” Mathews told King for King’s Monday Morning Quarterback column. “He’s told me I remind him of Ricky Williams, which is the kind of back I would like to be. In college I was a workhorse back. I believe I can do that here. My training has really improved, and I’ve set high standards for myself. I shouldn’t come off the field at all this year.”

Quote 2 – “I personally think he’s ready to take that next step,” Turner told Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune. “That means, to me, the production goes way up, and he’s more of the guy that is on the field most of the time. I think he’s grown a lot in terms of understanding his responsibility when the ball is in his hand.”

Quote 3 – “People who understand my history and look at it, I’ve had a large number of backs get a lot of carries, a dominant number of carries,” Turner said. “I’ve had a few guys who’ve led the league or led the conference in rushing. I do believe, based on my experiences, Ryan is a guy who is capable of, at some point, doing that.”

Speaking of Norv, lets take a closer look at Norv’s history when it comes to workhorse running backs.  Here is some great background info by Michael Gehiken of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Under Turner, that’s nothing new.

A Turner running back led the league in touches, which are carries plus catches, six times between 1991 to 2007, an average of more than once every three years. Smith, Tomlinson and Williams each accomplished it twice.

From 1991 to 2008, his primary running back finished in the top five in touches 11 times. The 49ers’ Frank Gore notably saw a career-high 373 touches in 2006, good for sixth most that season.

Of Turner’s workhorses, Smith came first.

With Turner coordinating the Cowboys offense from 1991 to 1993, Smith was the NFL’s rushing leader all three years. He handled its most touches in 1991 and 1992 — 414 and 432, respectively — and had the second most touches in 1993 (340) despite missing two games.

From 1994 to 2000, Turner head coached the Redskins.

Terry Allen averaged 342.5 carries between 1995 and 1996, second most in the NFL over that span. Stephen Davis rushed for a league-high 100.4 yards per game in 1999 with 290 carries in 14 games. He had 332 rushes in 2000.

In 2001, Turner became the Chargers’ offensive coordinator, and a rookie Tomlinson paced the NFL with 398 touches. The coach then detoured, assuming the same role with the Dolphins for two years.

There, Williams’ workload was epic.

He led the league with 383 rushes in 2002 and 392 in 2003. The 775 carries in two seasons are the most by a player in NFL history.

Other heavy workloads under Turner: Former Raiders running back LaMont Jordan had a career-high 342 touches in 2005. Tomlinson had a league-most 375 touches in 2007 and another 344 touches in 2008.

In conclusion there are a number of reasons why you should love Mathews this year, I hope I’ve cleared things up a bit or at least made you a bit more comfortable with selecting him in your drafts.  My personal take is a bold one, but I am all-in betting that Mathews will finish the ’12 season as the #1 RB in PPR scoring.  You should be happy to land him anywhere in the 2nd half of the first round whether it’s redraft or dynasty.  If you’re a gambler like myself you’ll even look to trade any of the big 3’s in McCoy/Rice or Foster for Mathews plus a bump at another position.  Earlier this off-season before Tolbert signed with Carolina I traded McCoy for Mathews and Dez.  Not sure you can get that type of value now, but there is still value to be had “if” you are a Mathew’s believer like me.  Join in on the forum discussion here.

Here is a little footage if it’s been a bit since you’ve watched him play…..