I enjoyed the conversation with Chargers coach Mike McCoy on Tuesday at the NFL owners meeting. He praised Keenan Allen and spoke highly of Ladarius Green.
Then I asked him about his backfield. And I felt a little sick by his answer.
But McCoy took it a step further down a road no one wants to go by saying he'll use a hot-hand approach with his three running backs this season. Mathews remains the starter, and Woodhead has his role as a receiver. But Brown is clearly going to be a factor, which makes it all murky heading into 2014.
"You get in there, you get on a little bit of a roll and you're going to stay in there," McCoy said. "Donald is a perfect fit for our system, and that's why we went after him and got him. He understands what we want to do offensively, not only in the passing game but in the running game and pass protection. ... We'll let Donald come in there and show us what he can do, and we'll try to take advantage of what he does best and go with the flow of the game."
Now, this doesn't mean Mathews is done as a must-start Fantasy option. Far from it, and Chargers general manager Tom Telesco recently said Mathews is his bell-cow. But it obviously hurts his value having someone of Brown's caliber on the roster, and he's an upgrade over Ronnie Brown.
I would approach the Chargers' backfield with Mathews as a No. 2 running back worth drafting toward the end of Round 2 or beginning of Round 3. He'll still have plenty of moments where he should dominate, especially if he can get 20-plus touches a week in a perfect scenario, which he had for five of the final seven games in 2013.
But Donald Brown is only worth a handcuff option for Mathews, and I wouldn't draft Woodhead in most standard formats. If either one starts out playing well then add them off waivers, but this backfield, which looked so good in 2013, is now tough to trust for Fantasy owners this year.