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You’re a crazy adventurist. You enjoy sky diving, rock climbing, and drafting Ryan Mathews. So cray.

You embrace risk, and give it a smothering bear hug. Risk is your friend, because in your mind along with others who invite risk into their lives, those who abide by the status quo are just a bunch of miserable, filthy conformists. And fair enough, because despite his repeated injuries — including most recently a broken collarbone in the preseason that led to two missed games this year — Mathews still has tremendous upside, and since his stock took a hit due to said injury, he was available at the bargain value of a late third-round pick in many drafts.

Production hasn’t been Mathews’ problem, and surprisingly, neither has health. No, trust has been the issue at least partly, with two fumbles beginning the erosion of Norv Turner’s trust in him earlier this year, and giving Ronnie Brown and Jackie Battle more opportunities. Mathews owners are now left with an early-round investment in a player who’s still capable of producing early-round numbers, but his opportunities in scoring situations have decreased, and therefore so has his fantasy value.

For this week’s Five Questions I talked to Rotoworld‘s Adam Levitan, and starting with Mathews I asked him to assess several backfield issues around the league, looking at the fantasy impact and suggested direction. We also touched on Robert Griffin III and his recent step back in production, and the trade value of the Bears defense.

1. Mathews showed some life this past Thursday, but he’s still scored only one touchdown while Brown and Battle continue to get a chunk of San Diego’s backfield workload. Should his owners be concerned about his usage? Or will Mathews still be a solid contributor going forward and during the fantasy playoffs?

Before Mathews’ collarbone injury, I had him as the No. 4 overall pick in fantasy drafts. He was going to be a three-down plus goal-line back in a solid offense.

Mathews has done nothing this year to dissuade my opinion that he’s a special talent. He’s still averaging 4.4 yards per carry and 6.9 yards per catch. The problem is that Ronnie Brown has run away with the third-down/two-minute drill job and Jackie Battle is the clear short-yardage/goal-line back. I doubt that changes, leaving Mathews as a mere RB2 with weekly upside.

2. There are also significant question marks around usage in the Carolina backfield, and a mess potentially developing in Pittsburgh once Rashard Mendenhall and Jonathan Dwyer are healthy. How do you see those situations playing out? And what’s the right play?

I think the Panthers made the right move by demoting DeAngelo Williams and using him in a change-of-pace role. He’s a better than average back, but Jonathan Stewart is special when used correctly. I’m riding Stewart as a flex in a few leagues right now and am happy about it.

The Steelers’ backfield is taking on the look of a full-blown committee. I think Rashard Mendenhall is still the most talented guy, but he’s also the most banged up. Jonathan Dwyer is the second-best talent, so he’s the best bet to get the hot hand this week. Expect a pretty even split with Isaac Redman, though. I’m avoiding this mess altogether if I can.

3. What about the Raiders’ backfield? With both Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson likely out this week, does Marcel Reece have flex play value?

I like Marcel Reece as long as both DMC and Goodson are out. But it has to be a full point-per-reception league. I don’t think Reece is going to get many carries or be successful if he does get them. After all, he’s a college wideout turned fullback. Where he can excel is in the passing game when abusing linebackers and safeties. The Raiders will be forced to go pass-heavy and Reece should have no problem catching 5+ balls.

4. Robert Griffin III has now put together back-to-back games with less than six yards per pass attempt, and he’s a week removed from having only eight rushing yards. Are defenses beginning to catch up to him? And should his owners be concerned during the second half of the season?

I’m only concerned because the Redskins have no real weapons on offense anymore. The losses of Fred Davis and Pierre Garcon have really crippled RG3’s upside in the passing game. I still think that he’ll be a top-five weekly quarterback option thanks to his legs. Defenses can’t solve a guy that runs a 4.4 and gets draws called for him in the red zone.

5. The Bears defense is producing at a consistently elite pace, and in most standard scoring formats as a unit it has more fantasy points than Adrian Peterson, A.J. Green, and Victor Cruz. Often managers stream defenses, playing matchups and picking up a new one nearly every week. But has the Bears defense now reached the point where it’s the exception, and it now has trade value for those making a playoff push? If so, what’s the right price to pay for a defense?

I’ve been a league with my friends from high school for 16 years and this Bears D/ST run is the straw that has broken the camel’s back. Starting next year, we aren’t going to have D/ST or K in our lineups. It will just be another flex spot for RB/WR/TE. The random luck associated with spending $1 in an auction on the Bears and getting the best player in fantasy just isn’t right.

Even as it stands now, I wouldn’t give up a starting player in my lineup for the Bears D. They can’t keep forcing turnovers and scoring touchdowns at this rate. It’s impossible. They also play the Packers in Week 15, which is semifinal week in most fantasy leagues.

Comments (2)

  1. Two questions with Sean Tomlinson.

    1) Do I rely on Hernandez coming back on his first week from injury, or bank on Greg Olsen (finally) coming through on this potential we all speak of?
    2) Decimated by byes this week so I have to take a flier on an RB: Joique Bell, Shane Vereen, or Daniel Thomas?

    • 1. Hernandez’s status is still unclear, although he’s trending in the right direction after practicing yesterday, albeit on a limited basis. We’ll know more as the week progresses, but if he’s playing he should be in your lineup. Remember, when he came back from his injury the first time his usage may have been limited, but he was still highly effective and he received red-zone targets. That was Week 6, when he finished with 30 yards on six receptions and a touchdown against a tough Seattle defense.

      2. For me that’s easily Thomas. All three are clearly in times shares, but the splits between both Bell and Mikel Leshoure in Detroit and Thomas and Reggie Bush in Miami are increasingly more even. The difference this week is Thomas’ matchup against a Titans defense that’s horrid against the run, and is giving up an average of 141.6 yards per game (30th). For the same reason, though, Vereen is an equally appealing option with Brandon Bolden hurt, and the Bills still giving up nearly six yards per carry. You’ll be fine with either of those two as a flex play.

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