Tyrann Mathieu is the type of prospect that keeps NFL scouts awake at night.
The LSU cornerback was shown the door on Friday (via ESPN) after repeated violations of team policy. Instead of competing for a national championship with the Tigers this year, he’ll likely be playing at McNeese State—a DI-AA school—according to Fletcher Mackel of NBC New Orleans. That doesn’t change the fact that Mathieu is a first-round lock, though.
A 5’9”, 175 pounds, Mathieu doesn’t look like the typical defensive force. He doesn’t have world-class speed to make up for his lack of size, and coverage skills tend to be overrated. He’s basically a safety in a corner's body.
Those negatives—along with character concerns, of course—will make the skeptical scout want to avoid Mathieu like the plague.
You can’t put a number on the Honey Badger’s play-making ability, though.
In just his first two seasons at LSU, Mathieu recorded six sacks, four interceptions, 11 forced fumbles, six recoveries and two defensive touchdowns. Last year, he found the end zone two more times as a punt returner—an art in which Mathieu averaged 17.2 yards a return.
Charlie Campbell of WalterFootball.com went so far as to compare Mathieu to the Baltimore Ravens’ Ed Reed. Mathieu may seem unworthy of such an honor, but in terms of being a game-changer, its justified.
If you cross Reed with Bob Sanders (a slightly smaller Bob Sanders....I know, he was already undersized), that’s the type of defensive presence Mathieu has the potential to become.
He was projected to be a mid-to-late first-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft before he received the boot, but he won’t fall far. Can you imagine the New England Patriots or Baltimore Ravens passing on a flat-out baller like Mathieu at the end of the first?
Highly unlikely. A player with his ability in their systems could be downright special.
Janoris Jenkins was kicked out of Florida, had more red flags waving than Mathieu and still managed to get selected 39th overall. And the Cleveland Browns spent a second-round pick in the supplemental draft on Josh Gordon, who Baylor suspended for a season.
Saying that a prospect “is just a football player” has become clichéd. But seriously, it doesn’t take a seasoned scout to see that Mathieu is an extraordinary talent.
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.