Ryan Mathews, RB - Fresno State
Weight: 218 pounds
40 time: 4.45
My favorite running back in the 2010 NFL Draft, Ryan Mathews burst onto the national scene in 2009 when he led the country in rushing with 1,808 yards and 19 touchdowns on 276 carries (6.6-yards per carry average). The former Bulldog finished his career at Fresno State with 3,280 yards rushing and 39 touchdowns on 534 carries (6.1-yards per carry).
A strong, powerful runner who is a north/south, downhill type of back who runs with authority, Mathews is as complete of a running back as you will find in this year’s draft. With fantastic vision and very good speed, Ryan has the cutback ability and the quickness needed to juke one defender and take the ball the distance. He has the type of frame that you look for in a starting, every-down running back in the NFL.
Ryan is a patient runner who does a great job of waiting for his blocks to develop before following them through the hole. Mathews is the type of back who picks up several small gains before breaking off a long run. He’s an aggressive runner in the open field who runs through tackles and is hard to bring down, both because of his strength and big size, as well as because of the explosive burst that he possesses once he reaches the open field.
Ryan has the balance and strength to consistently be able to pound the ball between the tackles as well as the speed and elusiveness needed to carry the ball outside. He’s also shown that he’s capable of catching the ball out of the backfield, having caught 19 passes for 267 yards and two touchdowns during his career at Fresno State; however, he may need more experience here at the next level. He’s also capable of being a fine blocker in the passing game; with his size and strength he has no problem picking up a linebacker on a blitz.
Mathews had one of the best workouts of any running back in attendance at the 2010 Scouting Combine. His 4.45 40-yard dash was fourth-best among all backs and his 19 reps on the bench was tied for eighth-best. He also put up solid numbers in the vertical (36-inches) and 20-yard shuttle (4.33-seconds). There aren’t many glaring holes in Mathews game, however he has dealt with injuries during his career; he suffered from foot and knee injuries during the 2008 season and he missed one game in 2009 due to a concussion. Ryan’s workload wasn’t too big during his career at Fresno State, so his long-term future as a back is bright as long as can stay healthy. I project that Mathews will be drafted in the mid-to-late first round.
Ryan Mathews has all of the tools and talent needed to develop into a very good starting running back in the NFL. His upside is very high and I personally think that he has the potential to become one of the top running backs in the league if he lands with the right team. He also has the ability to make an instant-impact as a rookie and he should be one of the most productive players from this year’s class early in his career. From a scouting standpoint, Mathews has absolutely everything that I look for in a top-flight running back prospect.
Notes: Ryan was named a second-team All-American and first-team All-WAC in 2009. As a senior in high school, Mathews rushed for 3,396 yards and 44 touchdowns, averaging just under 300-yards per game and leading the state of California in scoring; in addition, he threw for 851 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also averaged 41 yards on eight kickoff returns; this is potentially another area where he could help a team at the next level. Coming out of high school, Ryan was rated as the No. 98 player in the state of California and the No. 69 athlete in the country by Rivals.com.
While C.J. Spiller gets most of the ink and will likely be the first back off the board in both the NFL and dynasty rookie drafts, Mathews’ skill set strongly suggests he has every bit as good a chance of being an NFL and fantasy star. No need to rehash the size, speed, and productivity that has positioned him as the most complete back in the draft; let’s talk about what he can do for fantasy owners.
For starters, there’s little talk of Mathews needing to be part of a committee. Certainly, in today’s NFL most teams use a complementary back to some degree, but be it with the Chargers at the end of Round 1 or the Lions at the beginning of Round 2 odds are Mathews will see the majority of his team’s carries right from the start. His skills in pass protection will keep him on the field in third down situations (unlike, say, Beanie Wells), and he’s a good enough receiver out of the backfield to be a positive contributor in that area as well. While his strength is running between the tackles, his Combine 40 time suggests he has enough speed to break long runs as well. With relatively low mileage coming out of college, Mathews has all kinds of upside; all he needs now is the opportunity to bring it all to fruition.