In the first edition of the Rookie Watch, I thought it fitting to profile the player I think is most likely going to be the offensive rookie of the year, Chargers running back Ryan Mathews. He enters my rankings at the top of the list, and I don't expect him to fall from that perch in terms of the impact he makes on his team during his rookie campaign.
The upgrade at the running back position during the preseason for San Diego has been stunning. Mathews shows a burst LaDainian Tomlinson has not in several years. And Mathews runs with anger and aggression, rarely being brought down by the first tackler. He is quick and decisive.
Mathews can churn out the tough yardage and move the chains or he can hit the home run. He also has soft hands and intriguing receiving skills. Chargers coach Norv Turner should not hesitate to dump a huge workload on Mathews' shoulders. That is what he was drafted to do, and Turner has a history of turning talented runners into stars.
In their regular-season opener, the Chargers travel to Kansas City for a matchup on "Monday Night Football." Mathews and safety Eric Berry, who opens the season at No. 7 on my list, get to battle head to head, as Berry is sure to spend some time near the line of scrimmage to help the Chiefs' ailing front seven.
This looks like a very favorable matchup for Mathews in his NFL debut. I am predicting a Chargers win and about 125 total yards from the rookie running back. It will be the first of many big days for Mathews at this level. He is going to be a star.