When cornerback Tyrann Mathieu falls to the second round, the team that eventually selects the former LSU standout will be pulling off one of the biggest thefts of the 2013 NFL draft.
Mathieu has NFL-caliber talents and the credentials to back up his play on the field, but off-field issues—the former Heisman Trophy candidate failed a drug test, was kicked off the team and was arrested for possession of marijuana (h/t ESPN)—have changed the way many scouts perceive the talented player.
Despite the trouble that the CB got into during his time in college, the raw skill Mathieu showed at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine (via NFL.com) will have the teams that wrote him off because of character issues reconsidering the way they feel.
While Mathieu lacks the elite size most teams are looking for (5’9” and 186 pounds), he more than made up for it in speed at the scouting combine (4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash and an impressive 6.87-second time in the three-cone drill) and his agility (a 34-inch vertical jump and a 117-inch broad jump.)
Most teams know from watching the tape that this kid is even better with pads on, though, amassing first-team All-SEC and All-American honors, the Bednarik Award and coming in fourth place in the 2011 Heisman Trophy voting.
There will be a thousand questions about Mathieu and his drug use, but with that much hardware and raw talent, coupled with the need in the NFL to win immediately, there will be more than a few teams willing to take the risk of drafting the troubled star.
Add in the fact that the cornerback was also a threat on special teams, averaging 17.2 yards per punt return in 2011 (h/t Sports Reference), and Mathieu’s risk in the second round is well worth the potential reward.
The precedent for selecting Mathieu this high will be the St. Louis Rams taking a talented, yet troubled (h/t NFL.com), star in Janoris Jenkins at No. 39 overall in 2012.
There is little doubt that Jenkins is the better player overall—thriving in man-to-man coverage and having the size to be a dominant force in the NFL—but the rookie success of the Rams’ cornerback will have teams across the league contemplating the risks associated with taking Mathieu.
As long as the former LSU standout interviews well, exudes confidence without coming off as arrogant and addresses his previous issues thoroughly, he is on the right track to being a top-60 pick in the NFL draft.
Before the final team selects in the second round of the 2013 NFL draft, Mathieu’s name will be called and a team will have a potential gem.