2012 Fantasy Football

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Dead to Me: Ryan Mathews

posted by Phil Alexander

Jermichael Finley.  Chris Johnson.  Jeremy Maclin.  DeAngelo Williams.  A dreadful list of names that have one thing in common: They were all dead to me on draft day this year.  Fantasy licenses permanently revoked.  Forfeiting my pick was preferable to drafting any of those guys as far as I was concerned – anything to keep them from sabotaging another one of my teams.

I’m normally a rational guy when it comes to fantasy.  I completely understand that any player (yes, even the aforementioned bums and dullards) could turn into a nice value if they slip far enough in a draft.  Completely dismissing a player out of hand is not a winning strategy.  I get it.  Yet at some point over the last few years each of those guys fell into the same depraved pattern, leaving a dark stain on my fantasy soul.It starts with

-   “The Hype” – Preseason love from the fantasy community elevates the player’s stock to the point that I HAVE TO draft him…about 3 rounds earlier than is logical.

-   Next comes “The Hook” – The player opens the season with a string of hit or miss games, but flashes just enough production to fool me into thinking the breakout everyone promised is right around the corner.  Better not take him out of the lineup or I’ll be sorry.

-   And finally, “The Reality” – The season’s almost over before I come to the eventual realization that the player has never actually been very good, or has been terrible for quite some time (and the good version is never coming back).

So that was it.  They would never rope me in again.  I murdered them (or crossed their names off my cheat sheet…semantics really).   As I drafted away blissfully with a huge weight taken off my shoulders, I was comforted by warm thoughts of the long Ryan Mathews touchdown runs that would come to define my upcoming season.

Um, yeah.

Scoot over Jermichael, and try not to drop anything.  It’s time to make room for another zilch that will be joining you on none of my teams ever again.

 

I think we can all agree that Ryan Mathews is more deserving of the fantasy death sentence than any other NFL player.  For me he earned this distinction by virtue of sheer volume.  I had him on EVERY one of my teams this season, leaving me unable to escape his stink no matter how many clothes pins I wore on my nose.

Mathews was one of the most interesting cases of last draft season.  He started the summer overvalued, making an appearance in the top 7 or so picks of any off season mock draft you could find.  Expected improvement was priced into his ADP given a breakout 2011 (over 1,500 total yards, 4.9 YPC), the defection of bowling ball look alike Mike Tolbert to Carolina, and Norv Turner’s constant gushing that Mathews was going to get all the carries he can handle.  Mathews responded to all the love from coaches, beat writers, and fantasy owners by promptly (predictably?) breaking his collar bone on his first preseason carry.  Understandably, Mathews’ stock tanked just as most leagues began conducting their drafts.

Count me among the silly geese who saw the collarbone injury as a buying opportunity.  A broken clavicle wasn’t a shredded knee.  All I needed to do is manage around the two games he was slated to miss and I’d have a stud running back without having to spend a first round pick (a plan that worked out pretty well for Adrian Peterson owners in retrospect).  Here’s what I looked like in round 2 or 3 of all my drafts right before I peeled Mathews’ sticker, and proudly slapped his name on my draft board.

As it would turn out, an evil genius I am not.  Mathews followed up his promising 2011 with (avert your eyes) more fumbles than touchdowns this season.  For the love of all that is holy,  if we count the preseason he had twice as many broken collarbones as TD’s.  Yuck.

It’s easy to make excuses for the disaster that was Mathews’ 2012.  Pick your poison:

-   Mathews ran behind a craptacular o-line.  Football Outsiders ranked San Diego as only the 23rd best run blocking unit in the NFL.  Injuries and ineffectiveness were largely to blame.  By the end of the season, Mathews was running behind undrafted rookie free agents and practice squad players.

  Norv Turner’s usage of Mathews was the antithesis of his preseason proclamations. He exceeded 20 carries in only 3 of the 12 games he suited up for.  Even more puzzling was Norv’s bizarre insistence on trotting out Ronnie Brown in hurry-up and third down situations.  Just to be clear, Ronnie Brown isn’t just dead for fantasy purposes – he’s an actual dead person.  Literally deceased.  Every time he gets tackled he leaves a chalk outline on the field.  Did anyone ever bother to remind Norv that Mathews averaged 9.1 yards per reception in 2011?

-   Maybe he was never fully healthy.  In addition to the preseason collarbone injury, Mathews also missed practice time with neck and ankle injuries once the games started counting.

So I guess you can flip those excuses into an argument for drafting Mathews at a “bargain” price next season:  The o-line should improve, Norv was mercifully sent packing, and Mathews now has a whole off season for the collarbone and his other assorted bumps & bruises to heal.  Yeah, no thanks.

Here’s why I refuse to take my foot off his neck until he stops moving:

Bad o-line or not, Mathews was just so painfully mediocre.  His per game numbers were down across the board from 2011.  Here’s a quick year to year comparison of the pertinent stats.

Rush YPG

Rush YPC AVG

Rush TD

Rec YPG

Rec YPC AVG

2011

77.9

4.9

6

32.5

9.1

2012

58.9

3.8

1

21

6.5

Sadly, the only number that was consistent for Mathews from year to year was his average number of utilized plays per game.  He had 20.1 targets + rushes in 2011 compared to exactly 20 in 2012.  So even with Norv Turner’s rotations driving Mathews’ owners nuts most of the year, all that missing production came with essentially the exact same amount of per game opportunity as the prior year.  Major red flag.

Speaking of Turner, I would not be quick to assume that The Norv Face departing San Diego is a good thing for Mathews’ 2013 fantasy prospects.  While his rushing attacks haven’t always ranked near the top of the league, there’s not too many folks around the NFL I’ve seen question Turner’s offensive play calling ability.  I certainly don’t think LaDanian Tomlinson ever had a problem playing running back in a Norv Turner offense (Ugh, did I really just compare Ryan Mathews to LaDanian Tomlinson in my debut column?  Nice knowing you fake footballers).

No matter how you feel about Turner’s impact on a team’s running game, one thing’s for certain.  Norv and General Manager A.J. Smith (also canned) were the brain trust that traded up 16 spots in the 2010 draft to select Mathews as LT2’s successor.  The incoming regime has no loyalty to Mathews and no stake in seeing him succeed.  With Mathews proving unequivocally that he’s incapable of being a 25-30 touch bell cow, I’d be shocked if the new staff in SD doesn’t hand pick a platoon partner for him next season.  The early local media coverage supports the notion that some within the San Diego organization “no longer believe Mathews will become the player they envisioned three years ago”.

The final nail in Mathews coffin is of course his comical inability to hold up to the physical wear and tear of an NFL season.  If you think an offseason of rest is the fix, you might want to re-read the part where he had more broken collarbones than TD’s last year.  In his three years in the league, he’s exceeded 13 games played only once.  Call me jaded, but the 12 metal screws that now attach his shoulders to his body don’t inspire much confidence that next year is when Mathews bucks the trend.

So on behalf of all those who had their lives adversely effected by your abhorrent fantasy football performance this season…

You’re dead to me Ryan Mathews.

May you rest eternally as my opponent’s headache from this day forth.

 

P.S.

As I was preparing to submit this article I noticed that fellow The Fake Football rookie of the year candidate Davis Mattek correctly included Mathews on his list of 2012’s Least Valuable Players.  How much more evidence of Mathews’ atrociousness do you need people?  Fantasy football sites are now hazing their novice staff members by demanding they write pieces about this guy.  It is getting insane.  Go away Mathews – we can’t take it anymore!

 

P.P.S.

I’d love to know which players destroyed your fake seasons and are now DEAD TO YOU.  Leave a comment below, find me on twitter @PhilPeluso, or follow me on www.TheWarRoom.com – the only social media platform dedicated to fantasy sports.

 

All right one more thing and then I promise I’m done.  All the talk about fake death got me to thinking.  What are the greatest violent movie death scenes of all time?  Horror movies need not apply.  After spending countless hours scientifically researching the matter (20 minutes on Youtube), I think I’ve nailed the definitive top 5.  What do you guys think?

5.  Good Fellas – Opening car scene

4.  American Me – Shank scene

3.  Inglorious Bastards – Baseball bat scene

2.  True Romance – Patricia Arquette vs. James Gandolfini

1.  American History X – Curb stomp

 


Phil Alexander

Phil is a staff writer for Footballguys.com. In addition to The Fake Football, his work has also been featured at numberFire.

Latest posts by Phil Alexander (see all)

6 Comments

  • Jermaine – Whatever the Cardinals field at QB next year HAS to be better than Skelton-Lindley-Hoyer. I’m taking the discount on Larry Fitz next year.

  • I was all in on McFadden also this year. I intended to include him in this article, but got carried away with Mathews and ran out of room. I can’t quit McFadden though. Come August, I’m sure I’ll be telling people to blame that wretched zone blocking scheme, and that every player is due for a healthy year sooner or later.

  • For me its probably Darren McFadden. This was supposed to be the year, I even essentially trades Chris Johnson for him, and would have been happier to keep Johnson. Oh well.

  • Larry Fitzgerald could end up on the list through no fault of his own if they dont get him a quarterback soon seriously.

  • The ending of 7 where Pitt murders Spacey he couldn’t help himself just like I can’t stop drafting Matthews

    • Good call. Seven definitely deserves honorable mention

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