Beef: Ryan Mathews vs. Steven Jackson

Steven “ I Don’t Smoke Crack Son” Jackson
Photo Credit: John Martinez Pavliga

“The more beef they bring Killa, the more steak to feast on.” – Killa Sin

Big Poppa Pockets: I haven’t done an episode of “Beef: The Series” in a while, but that lil’ quote sums it up right. Justin Ochy-whatever the fuck his name is wants to do battle. He’s in Ryan Mathews’ corner and I’m reppin’ Steven Jackson. You decide in the end who you’d rather take (pause).

Take a dump, and make the jump:

I’ll throw the first jab here (which, of course, is equivalent to the force of six Chuck Norris roundhouse kicks). We’ll start the obvious: Mike Tolbert. Dude will be poaching most of the rushing TDs. Tolbert is also good enough to carry the ball 10-15 times a game if he’s running well. With Philip Rivers around, you know the Chargers will be throwing a lot. Oh yeah, Ryan Mathews also spells his last name with only one “t,” which sucks.

Steven Jackson? He doesn’t have a Mike Tolbert peeking over his shoulder. When they get in the red zone, Jackson will get his touches. The Rams are also an up and coming offense, so they should do a better job of moving the ball up the field. Sure Jackson has lost a step, but he’s the unquestioned carry machine in St. Louis.

I’m tickled with excitement over your rebuttal Justin, because by the end of this post, you will need a “rebuttal” to reattach the ass I’ve just handed to you (pause).

Justin Occhionero AKA The Phenom, Captain Oaktree, The Savant: Thank you oh holy Starbs for that expletive-laden yet informative introduction. Many of your musings are indeed true. Steven Jackson is indeed the workhorse of the Rams, one who has eclipsed the 1,000 yard plateau five years running. He is undoubtedly a consistent commodity, one many would gladly pounce on early in drafts.

Alas, I am here to refute your arguments, and although my language may not contain as many profanities, its persuasive power will surely rise to the occasion. I solemnly declare that Ryan Mathews will out produce Steven Jackson in 2011.

First, there’s the workload factor. Being a “true” number one running back is a strenuous endeavor, one that often leads to injuries. Keep in mind that Jackson has carried the ball 664 times the past two years, a feat only Chris Johnson has surpassed (674). Seeing as Jackson has a troublesome injury history and an already tumultuous start to the preseason, banking on a full season of work from Jackson is a bit too risqué for my taste.

You may argue that the younger, fresher Mathews also has an injury history. This may be true, although as our resident physical therapist already stated, and I quote: “I can’t call Mathews an injury risk because of one lost season.”

The undeniable truth is that Mathews is loaded with talent and is aching for the opportunity to show his worth. Even with Tolbert snagging some goal line work away from him, Mathews will be the go-to guy in the San Diego backfield. He has a legitimate chance of rushing for 1,000+ yards and if his preseason work sheds light on his future success, we could see him reaching pay dirt 8-10 times.

I’ll leave it at that for now and although not my style, I’ll be on the lookout for the “rebuttal” you so desperately need.

Baby Dolemite: So you pretty much are siding with Mathews simply because he’s “fresher, younger” right? Well he didn’t look so “fresh” when he was falling down upon first contact last year. He also didn’t sound so “fresh” when he reported to camp out of shape. As for his preseason work shedding “light on his future success”… what games are you watching? Mathews hasn’t been anything spectacular this preseason and he’s locked in as a platoon RB.

Let’s not forget that everyone pretty much had Mathews pegged as a late first round/early second round fantasy draft pick, but that was all based on his situation. Mathews does a lot of things well, but he’s not a game-changer in terms of talent. Yeah he has good speed, but the great “vision” people were talking about last year just allows him to have a better view of him getting his ass kicked on the football field. Fact is, Tolbert outplayed him badly last year, even looking more elusive than the quicker Mathews (Tolbert was 10th overall in Yards After Contact Percentage). Plus, Mathews needs work in pass protection, something that could keep him off the field for more snaps than you anticipate. Look, the bottom line is that Mathews isn’t breaking out of this platoon. If Tolbert stays healthy, Mathews will have to kill it with his limited touches in order to register 1,000 yards. As for the 8-10 scores…. again, he’ll have to do serious work with the touches he gets to reach such lofty heights.

Steven Jackson, on the other hand, will hit 1,000 yards in his sleep as long as he’s healthy. Yeah I know S-Jax seems to be getting more nicked up as time goes on, but he’s one of the toughest players in the league and is always on the field. Sure his motor isn’t what it used to be, but the Rams offense should be better overall due to Sam Bradford’s development and the improvement of the offensive line.

What say you Justin? Can you even utter that Mathews is a better talent than Tolbert? Because everything we’ve seen from the two to date suggests that the only thing Mathews has on him is quickness and better hands. Tolbert breaks more tackles, has the goal-line duties locked down, is better in pass protection (and thus, keeps himself from getting off the field), and is just straight up better than Mathews. Shit, this beef should be between Tolbert and Mathews.

Justin O: No need to utter it, I’ll put it in writing. Ryan Mathews is a better talent than Mike Tolbert. Now onto the task at hand. A bad preseason? Clearly you’re deluded. Mathews has been receiving only praise. Want proof? here’s a little excerpt from Norv Turner describing his second year back. From the San Diego Union-Tribune:

“Mathews had an outstanding pre-season game Sunday. He’s going to get the chance to show he’s in great shape because he’s going to get opportunities.”

Encouraging words to say the least. As for his apparent inability to shed tacklers, take a gander at his 15 yard TD scamper against the Cowboys. I counted three missed tackles, you can count again if you don’t believe me.

As for his platoon situation, there’s not much I can say against it. Yes, he will be sharing carries, likely hampering his true potential. Having said that, I think it’s important to understand that Mathews will still get the majority of the carries. In fact, according to San Diego Beat writer Kevin Acree, Mathews and Tolbert are set to enter a 220 to 150 split. This, however, could change once the season goes on. Remember last year when similar expectations were given to Michael Bush and Darren McFadden? Look how that turned out after Run DMC’s monstrous start to the year. The truth of the matter is Mathews will get the touches on early downs, and if he impresses and continues to improve in pass protection, he could find himself slowly escaping the platoon.

Jackson is a good back, I already stated that. I just, again, can’t see him playing a full season. In the early rounds, I rarely see a point in drafting aging backs, especially ones as injury prone as Jackson. You are right when you say that Bradford will progress and that the offense will improve. The problem, however, is that with Josh McDaniels running the plays, St. Louis will undoubtedly be a pass first team, which is not something that bodes well for Jackson. Just look at what happened to Denver’s running game last year, they ranked 26th in total rushing yards and 27th in rushing attempts. The signs are clear, and they all point to a decline in Jackson’s fantasy production.

Mathews’ signs, however, are all good and all point to a breakout campaign. It also is pleasing to see that his ADP at Yahoo currently holds at 69. That’s incredible value for a potential top tier RB2. He’s got the talent, all he needs now is the opportunity. If what is being told to the masses is true, he will get his opportunities this year and thus you can bank on the 2011-2012 season being Ryan Mathews’ breakout year.

That’s all we got, now it’s your turn. Who do you think will be the better pick in 2011, Ryan Mathews or Steven Jackson?


About Starbonell

Starbonell is the co-founder of Sons of Roto and one of the most insightful and colorful fantasy analysts in the game. Mixing intelligent and well-researched advice with an entertaining style of writing that is easy to digest, Starbonell is the king of info-tainment.