Fantasy football owners will be putting a lot of faith in Chargers running Ryan Matthews this season, as he has been projected by many fantasy experts including myself to break out for a big year and may be wondering if they should have any concern about former Dolphins and Eagles running back Ronnie Brown signing with San Diego.
Brown, who was selected with the second overall pick by the Dolphins in 2005 NFL Draft, had a once promising career in the NFL slowed by injuries. He does have one Pro Bowl season to his credit, which came after the 2008 season when the wildcat burst on the scene but he did not even reach 1,000 yards rushing and has done so only once in his career.
Brown has played in 92 career games and started in 73. He has carried the ball 1,170 times in his career for a total of 4,951 yards and 37 rushing touchdowns. He also has 184 career receptions for 1,491 yards and two touchdowns. For his career he has a yards per carry average of 4.2.
Yet, after averaging at least four yards in the first five years of his career, he has posted yards per carry averages of 3.7 and 3.2, respectively in 2010 with Miami and last season in Philadelphia. Brown appeared in 16 games for the Eagles last season but carried the ball just 42 times for 136 yards (3.2 YPC) and scored one touchdown. He caught no passes.
It is a little difficult to judge Brown’s numbers from last season because he received so few attempts. He received four carries or more just four times, so he was never really given a chance to establish a rhythm. Plus his receiving skills were also never utilized.
So what does his signing mean for the Chargers and the fantasy value of Matthews?
As far as Matthews is concerned the addition of Brown should have little impact. Right now, Brown is nothing more than a role player and will be competing with former rookie free agent Curtis Brinkley, who enters his third season with the Chargers, to be Matthews’ primary backup. Brinkley carried the ball 30 times last year for 101 yards and a touchdown and also added seven receptions for 41 yards.
The only reason Brown and Brinkley have any value at all is due to Matthews injury history history. During his first two NFL seasons he was hampered by injuries and missed a total of six games.
So while Brown possess little fantasy value at this point, if he can beat out Brinkley for the no.2 spot on the Chargers depth chart, he will have some value as a fantasy handcuff because he would be in line for a decent workload if Matthews were to go down to injury.
If Brown is able to win the backup job, he could reasonably expect to carry the ball around 100 times next season and if Matthews were to miss even a few games due to injury that total would likely increase to the 125-150 range. However, even with that number of carries Brown probably will not make a huge impact, unless he somehow rejuvenates his career in San Diego.
2012 Fantasy Football Projection Ronnie Brown: 112 carries for 425 yards (3.8 YPC) and 20 receptions for 154 yards (7.7 YPC), two total touchdowns.
The biggest question surrounding Brown is whether or not he beats out Brinkley to be Matthews backup or not. If not, then he will have almost no value as a fantasy back unless there is a string of injuries. But if he ends up in the backup role, he will have some value as a handcuff, which could make him worth a late-round pick for owners, who draft Matthews. In that scenario a late-round pick could be justified but preferably he would be a waiver wire pickup.
Here is a highlight video of Browns time with the Dolphins to jog your memory: