It may not have been the way he would have always dreamed it would go, but former LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu made the correct decision declaring for the 2013 NFL Draft on Thursday.
The declaration had been long expected, but was first reported by Yahoo! Sports' Jason Cole:
Tyrann Mathieu has hired agent Pat Lawlor, who reps fellow former LSU standout Patrick Peterson. Lawlor confirmed Mathieu going pro.— Jason Cole (@JasonColeYahoo) November 29, 2012
By hiring an agent, Mathieu ended months of speculation and can now focus on preparing for his future.
This isn't a question about whether Mathieu is worth the massive risk. He's not. I've covered that topic quite extensively before.
However, as a decision for Mathieu himself, declaring for April's draft was easily his best move.
After being kicked off the LSU football team before the 2012 season, Mathieu attempted rehabilitation—in terms of both substances and image.
He did and said all the right things and seemed to be toeing the line well enough that a return to Tiger Stadium was plausible.
However, his arrest on drug charges in October extinguished any chance that his time at LSU would have a storybook ending. He had exhausted every last chance with Les Miles, leaving his college football career in ruins.
With a return in Baton Rouge out of the question, Mathieu had two options—neither of which was ideal.
He could throw himself on the mercy of another college coach, and try to rebuild his reputation by competing at an elite level after a full year away from the game. Considering his troubled past, it would take an awfully desperate program (or non-FBS school) to bring Mathieu into the fold.
Either of those scenarios was a one-way ticket to obscurity.
By putting himself in the draft, he'll undoubtedly be one of the most intriguing prospects at the combine.
Outside of the top picks, Mathieu—whether by hook or by crook—will be the one player that all the top scouts want to see, hoping to strike gold.
What's more, all the game tape coaches watch in the pre-draft phase will show the dynamic play that made the Honey Badger a Heisman candidate.
His drug problems will obviously be in the back of their mind, but the captivating talent is undeniable when you break it down.
Don't get me wrong, Mathieu has massive holes in his game, particularly in coverage technique, but still, they just don't give away Chuck Bednarik Awards like they're unpaid storage units.
Mathieu was an expert tackler at his position, and was one of the best return men in college football history.
If Mathieu shows up to the combine and individual workouts in shape and wows with his otherworldly physical gifts, a team will draft him. Whether it's in the first, third, fifth or seventh round, his name will be called next April.
Being drafted alone will give him a chance to prove his worth to an NFL team, while also giving him some guaranteed money—no matter how minuscule a sum.
In an ideal world, Mathieu would have returned to a college program, had a fantastic 2013 season, been drafted in the first round in 2014, and we'd be talking about a redemption story.
Mathieu's drug bust in October made that impossible.
So while declaring for the NFL in this manner isn't ideal, Mathieu's actions made it necessary.