With former LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu’s name officially among the pool of players entering the 2013 NFL Draft, the question now is not whether or not the troubled star will be drafted, but where will he wind up?
Mathieu, despite his worst efforts off the field, is an absolute stud on it. The “Honey Badger” became a household name at LSU, and even garnered some Heisman recognition. He was the poster child for toughness and playmaking ability in college football, and he didn’t even have to touch the ball on every play.
The MVP of a national championship caliber defense, and arguably the best defensive player in college football–kicked off his team because of poor choices made off the field.
Despite his 133 career tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 16 passes broken up, 11 forced fumbles, four interceptions, and two punt return touchdowns, Mathieu was dropped from the LSU Tigers football program and left sitting in the stands this fall. Prior to Mathieu’s off-field incidents, I had him rated as a potential first round selection.
With today’s NFL being all about the passing game, Mathieu’s ability to move around the field and play the “joker” defensive back role is extremely valuable. He can play the nickel corner spot (his primary position) as well as outside and even at times as a linebacker or safety. His speed and toughness allow him to make plays behind the line of scrimmage and I could see him being a huge weapon in the pass rush department.
Not only that, but Mathieu has serious value as a punt returner and special teams player. I don’t think Mathieu is destined for the first round, but he is certainly going to get drafted. The question is, who will be willing to take a risk on him with his issues off the field? The NFL is all about taking calculated risks, and certain coaching staffs have more confidence in their ability to control a player like Mathieu than others do.
There are certain teams in the NFL who simply refuse to take a risk on a guy like Mathieu, because of the potential distraction he can cause. However, when the third round rolls around and this guy is still on the board (hypothetically), it will be tempting for any of the 32 teams to pull the trigger.
I don’t see any reason why–if I were a GM–I wouldn’t take a risk on this kid. There will be a large variety of interviews done to see about his background, and what his true colors are. He has a very unique skill set that I believe could translate to the NFL really well. He’s going to have a lot of rust to shake off when he finally gets a chance to set foot on a football field, but when he does, I think we’ll see the Honey Badger sooner rather than later.
This guy is a rare playmaker, and the qualities that make him an intriguing prospect are those you don’t see every year in a player. College football has missed his player, but their loss is soon to be the NFL’s gain. Mathieu’s situation will be closely monitored by the national media, and he’s going to have to get used to answering the same questions over and over again to prove that his past is truly in the past.
Hopefully declaring for the 2013 NFL draft is a huge step in the right direction for one of the most exciting football players in America.