Off-field issues and an entire year away from college football have put the NFL draft stock of former Louisiana State Tigers standout CB Tyrann Mathieu in jeopardy. But given the recent ringing endorsement he received from Hall of Famer Deion Sanders on NFL Network, it is likely that Mathieu will see his value rise.
Mathieu was kicked off the Tigers' football team due to multiple failed drug tests for marijuana, which came after an extremely promising 2011 campaign where he was named an All-American and Heisman Trophy finalist.
Although he is only about 5'9", 185 pounds, there is no doubting the unique ability that Mathieu has. He can be a game-changer as a returner and has incredible ball skills and instincts at the cornerback position.
In his gushing remarks, Sanders highlighted not only Mathieu's strengths on the field but also how impressed he was with how he handled a stern, serious interview about his troubled past with marijuana.
Last week in Boca Raton, Mathieu was working out with fellow former Tiger Patrick Peterson and several other corners alongside Sanders. The fact that he was able to stand out and make such an impression on Sanders for him to point to intangibles as a strong point is extremely encouraging.
The drug habit that Mathieu developed landed him in rehab (h/t ESPN), and it cost him a ton of money as a future pro. But he has since overcome that and, according to Sanders, has put that past behind him and is ready to get an opportunity in the NFL.
Sanders even went so far as to say that Mathieu has hands on par with receivers. To put it simply, he said that Mathieu was going to be a "baller—immediately" at the next level. He even labeled him as a leader.
This comes in rather stark contrast to the buzz surrounding Mathieu after his measly four repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press. Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk noted how this development could cause some to question Mathieu's work ethic in the weight room.
After that disappointment, though, Mathieu ran a 4.43 40-yard dash (h/t NFL.com), which was a nice bounce-back performance and will enhance the perception that he can be an effective nickel back at the very least.
Sanders emphasized that he saw Mathieu alongside Peterson and implied that he held his own against the Arizona Cardinals star.
Teams are undoubtedly peppering Mathieu with character-based questions about his troubled past. Passing with flying colors for arguably the greatest corner ever is a fantastic sign that Mathieu can handle being under fire.
The type of glowing evaluation that Sanders provided may not weigh heavily with the teams doing their own independent assessments and thinking about risking a draft pick on Mathieu, but working with Sanders on the field and answering his very difficult questions outside the numbers was one of the best moves Mathieu could have made to help his image—and his draft stock.