Those looking to still use a 1st round pick on Ryan Mathews and his immense upside, in spite of his recent broken collarbone, and then use a later pick on a handcuff to use in his absence, will be disappointed to know that Chargers Head Coach Norv Turner has indicated that he will use a 3-way running back committee in Mathews absence, saying “right now, it’d probably be a mix.”
Those three backs will be Ronnie Brown, Curtis Brinkley, and Le’Ron McClain. Brown figures to be the de facto starter, while Brinkley will serve as a change of pace back, and McClain, also a fullback, will handle short yardage duties and maybe 3rd downs. It’s a fantasy disaster area as the 3 backs will make each other irrelevant and it’s not like any of them are that talented. Brown looks pretty washed up, heading into his age 31 season, after averaging 3.2 YPC last season, while Curtis Brinkley has just 32 career carries. McClain, meanwhile, is just a full back, though he’s an above average runner and pass catcher for his position.
Jackie Battle, meanwhile, figures not to be in the mix as he was signed primarily for his special teams value as a gunner. The Chargers should carry 4 running backs on the 53 man roster heading into the season, but it’s likely that they cut one once Mathews returns, likely Brinkley, who was expected to be on the outside looking in at final cuts before the Mathews injury. Mathews’ injury seems to have given him new life and another opportunity to prove his worth, but he’ll have to outplay the other 2 backs to remain on the roster.
Mathews, meanwhile, remains a 1st round pick in fantasy circles. Yes, he will miss a game or two, but you had to figure he would when making projections for him. When in the lineup, he could easily lead all backs in fantasy points per game as the Chargers’ “everything” back. If he can play 14 or 15 games and not sustain another injury, he could still finish the year as a top-5 back. There’s no guarantees he won’t get hurt again, especially with his history, but collarbone injuries are not lingering injuries.