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So maybe Ryan Mathews’ rookie season won’t be a complete washout.

Editor’s Note: I really wanted to write this before Week 14 began based on Kevin Acee’s tweet, but nonetheless, better late than never.

Ryan Mathews returned to action as the San Diego starter at running back just as Acee predicted earlier in the week.  Mathews had an equal number of touches on offense as Mike Tolbert and their numbers were eerily similar.

Mathews flashed the feature back ability the Chargers had hoped for when making him the 12th overall selection in the 2010 draft.  His 4th quarter 15-yard touchdown was an impressive feat while maintaining his balance with his right hand on the ground.

Week 14 versus Kansas City

Player Att Yd Avg TD Rec Yd TD
Mathews 16 65 4.1 1 1 6 0
Tolbert 16 66 4.1 1 1 13 0

Based on Mathews’ ADP this season and where he was taken in dynasty rookie drafts, he has to be considered one of the biggest busts of 2010 at quick glance.  He’ll never live up to the preseason hype, but there is reason for optimism in the future.

While Mathews has been a disappointment, Mike Tolbert has been a pleasant surprise and the better fantasy option this year based on his 10 rushing touchdowns.  While Mathews has more feature back potential with his speed, balance and power, Tolbert is part of the new school of hybrid fullback-running backs that have earned a place in the NFL (Peyton Hillis).

Looking towards next season, Mathews is a great buy-low candidate in dynasty leagues.  Most view him as a bust already because he wasn’t able to stay healthy in his rookie year and couldn’t hold off an undrafted fullback in Mike Tolbert for a majority of the carries. Not to take anything away from Tolbert, but the future is with Mathews, and both backs can coexist and complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses in an élite committee.

All things being equal and if both players are healthy in 2011, you could see the San Diego backfield resemble the Giants’ backfield of 2010 with Mathews playing the Bradshaw role and Tolbert doing his best Brandon Jacobs impersonation.

Most dynasty leagues have halted trades until the playoffs are complete, but make acquiring Mathews a priority this offseason via trade or an early selection in your initial draft (5th-7th round).

Season Totals

Player Att Yd Avg TD Rec Yd TD
Mathews 102 444 4.4 3 16 98 0
Tolbert 161 691 4.3 10 25 216 0
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