Bring up the 'Honey Badger' in draftnik circles and you're guaranteed a hot debate over the controversial playmaker.
Tyrann Mathieu, a defensive back from LSU and a prospect for the 2013 NFL Draft, certainly has his flaws.
While I'll get to my Twitter debate with Bleacher Report NFL Lead Writer Matt Miller in a moment, consider this tweet from Miller before the argument:
To break this down very quickly, let's go through each of Miller's points.
"Mathieu is small"
Fair assessment. This is the corner's only true downside. I'll make a case for why this is somewhat irrelevant later on in the piece.
"Not that fast"
Blasphemy. The cornerback is an explosive return man and, according to NFLDraftScout.com, Mathieu has run in the 4.3's.
"Takes way too many risks"
Yes, Mathieu takes risks. That's what makes him a dynamic playmaker on defense. Whether it's going for the ball or attempting to lay the wood on a ballcarrier, Mathieu is always trying to make plays. This is a positive, not a negative.
Another unsubstantiated, subjective claim that can go either way. Mathieu will, at times, get overmatched trying to take down bigger ballcarriers. However, go to 0:05 and 1:44 in the video to the above right (and that's just against Georgia) for proof that this cornerback can bring down rushers.
Anyway, the start to the debate was rather pedestrian.
Miller had posted that Tyrann Mathieu wasn't in the former's Top 50, so I responded:
Miller goes on to respond how a mix of Charles Woodson and Brandon Flowers is unrealistic.
In all honesty, cornerbacks in the past have proven that it's possible to have success when shorter than 5'11." Asante Samuel, DeAngelo Hall and especially Brandon Flowers have proved that, when a defensive back makes plays, size isn't much of a factor.
The debate went on when I asked what other defensive backs have made plays as frequently as Mathieu has, to which Miller responded Eric Berry and Patrick Peterson.
I made the argument that Mathieu compensates for his lack of size with uncanny awareness.
Then this gem:
@EliNachmany Uncanny awareness may work against sub-par SEC QBs, it won't work in the NFL. You have to be disciplined. And size matters— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) July 16, 2012
@nfldraftscout Consider that LSU played Aaron Murray, Geno Smith, Tyler Wilson and Tyler Bray last year. Mediocre? Explain.— Eli Nachmany (@EliNachmany) July 16, 2012
@EliNachmany Four games out of 13. That's a very small sample size. When AJ McCarron torches you in coverage, you're not elite.
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) July 16, 2012
After I bring up four games in which Mathieu held his own against legitimate draft prospects—which Miller passes off as too small a sample size—the draft analyst counters with a few passes from AJ McCarron in which Mathieu was playing run-first defense against Trent Richardson.
We finally agree to disagree, ending by concurring that Mathieu is a deadly player in "robber" coverage, which describes underneath coverage by a defensive back in a "Cover 1" defense (one deep safety).
Mathieu is a top-five draft prospect. Without a doubt, this defender is the No. 1 cornerback in the 2013 class.
While his coverage skills and ability to intercept the football are advanced, it's his ability as a "ballhawk" and a game changer that elevate this player to superhero status.
Mathieu is one of the best players in college or the NFL at forcing fumbles, and he makes a huge impact in the punt return game, too.
After watching the film on this player, I see no glaring holes in his game. While Mathieu doesn't have the flashy interception numbers of David Amerson, I rate Mathieu higher than Amerson.
Interceptions aren't the be-all, end-all statistic for cornerbacks. Rather, the rare impact that the Honey Badger makes on games (in the SEC, that is) is a can't-miss attribute.
Thanks to Matt Miller for a great argument, which I enjoyed.
Follow me on Twitter for more NFL debates @EliNachmany. I appreciate every follower!