Three and out: Mathews losing value fast

Ryan Mathews to miss time: A few weeks ago, before the lockout ended, I would have told you that Mathews has some sleeper value heading into 2011. But with all of the reports I’m seeing out of San Diego, I’m now changing course and plan to avoid him on draft day. The San Diego Union-Tribune is reporting that Mathews is dealing with a “slight” muscle strain in his leg and is unlikely to play Thursday against the Seahawks. He also has dealt with a sore toe in camp, and we all remember the high ankle sprain that hindered him as a rookie. Aside from his injury woes, Mathews is also looking at a backfield committee right in the face. Coach Norv Turner plans to use a two-back system this season, with Mathews and Mike Tolbert sharing the workload. So unless you’re taking him as a flex starter, it’s going to be hard to trust Mathews in a prominent role for your fantasy squad.

Ravens sign Ricky Williams: With Willis McGahee out of the mix, the Ravens added Williams to serve as their new No. 2 running back behind Ray Rice. The initial response is that it hurts Rice’s fantasy value — and it does — but not enough to keep him from being ranked among the top five players at his position. Remember, the team also added Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach to pave the way for Rice on the ground. Leach, a member of the Texans a year ago, was the lead blocker for fantasy star Arian Foster during his breakout season. Also keep in mind that at 34 Williams is no spring chicken. So while he might take some short-yardage or goal-line touches, Williams is still no more than a late-round handcuff for Rice in drafts.

Crabtree to be back soon?: According to a report on, Michael Crabtree (foot) could be ready to play late in the preseason. However, the more likely scenario is that the wide receiver will be held back until Week 1 when the Niners open their regular season against the Seahawks. Crabtree, who has been wearing an orthopedic boot on his injured foot, is still a risk-reward fantasy pick — especially now that Braylon Edwards is also in the mix. In fact, he’s a late-round pick in most drafts, at least until he can get back onto the field.

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