We don't get points for last year's stats. Fully committing to that concept is a giant step in the right direction.
In Ryan Mathews' two-year career, he has never scored more than seven touchdowns. He's never ran for more than 1,091 yards or even come close to touching the ball 300 times. Mathews should also be a top-five pick in fantasy drafts this summer. Say what?
The eye test remains the best talent evaluator. And all we have to do is turn on some tape of Mathews to see that he's one of the best pure runners in the league, right there with guys like LeSean McCoy and Maurice Jones-Drew. He never goes down on first contact, gets to the edge with ease and is a beast in the passing game. Mathews has averaged 4.7 yards per carry in his career for a reason. The dude can really run and is entering his prime at age 24.
A big reason Mathews isn't a household name right now is Mike Tolbert. The powder keg was used as the Chargers' clear goal-line back in the timeshare, racking up 21 touchdowns and 382 touches over the last two seasons. Now Tolbert is in Carolina, leaving Mathews as the lone ranger. He's going to see a huge spike in goal-line work and the passing game. Projecting 330 touches in the Chargers' high-powered offense is very fair.
The biggest knocks on Mathews so far have been missed games and fumbling issues. However, his injuries have not been of the serious variety. He hasn't torn up a knee like Adrian Peterson or needed a groin surgically repaired like Michael Turner. Those ankle sprains and tweaks are just bad luck. As for Mathews' 10 fumbles over the last two seasons, he's aware of it. And that's step one to fixing it. But even if the problem crops up again, the Chargers will have no choice but to stick with Mathews. His backup is former undrafted free agent Curtis Brinkley.