In the 2010 draft the chargers made a big trade in the 1st round to take their guy in Ryan Mathews. AJ Smith was so confident in Mathews' ability that they released future hall of famer Ladanian Tomlison the year they drafted him.
Mathews has struggled with injury so far in his career and it has definitely had a negative impact on his stats. He missed 4 games in his first season and 2 games last year. But if he can stay healthy he should be in for a big year for the following reasons:
1) He improved last year and you would expect him to carry on this trend. In 2010 his average gain was 4.3 yards but in 2011 he improved that to 4.9 which put him in the top 10 for starting running backs which is impressive for a 2nd year back. He had his first 1000 yard season which is always a good landmark for any back.
2) The departing of Mike Tolbert now means he will get much more carries and can be a premier back for the chargers. Tolbert also made a dent into Mathews' red zone touches so he will be able to almost double his touchdown count of 6 from last year assuming we don't pick up a top red zone back in free agency.
3) The LeSean McCoy effect. If you take a look at McCoy's stats then look at Mathews' you can notice one key similarity. That is their first two years. In McCoys first year he ran for 600 yards, with an average of 4.1. Mathews also ran for 600 yards with an average of 4.3. Their second years were also very similar with McCoy breaking the 1000 yard mark by 80 yards while Mathews got 1091 yards. And guess what McCoy did in his third year. Yep he became one of the best backs in the league with a mighty 17 touchdowns and 1,300 yards. If Mathews can continue his trend of copying McCoy then we could see a great season from him this year.
4) Mathews will be joined by two time pro bowl and all pro full back Le'Ron McClain. Le'Ron should open up new holes for Mathews which he never had before and could be another Lorenzo Neal type players for the chargers. This will make getting to Mathews a nightmare for defencive players.