Tyrann Mathieu is on the Bengals' radar thanks to a combination of outstanding special teams skills and his quality defensive play.
A day before the Cincinnati Bengals re-signed return specialist Brandon Tate (per the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport), news broke that the team had been in contact with, and worked out, controversial defensive back and return man Tyrann Mathieu.
Mathieu broke the news himself via Twitter, stating that he had shown the team his outstanding special teams skills in a workout:
Had a great punt return session with @bengals
— Tyrann Mathieu (@Mathieu_Era) March 22, 2013
Before you laugh about the team's history with troubled players (which is quite outdated in comparison to other teams now anyway), consider the fact Mathieu is an outstanding prospect who fills multiple needs for Cincinnati.
Mathieu makes sense on the football field for Cincinnati more than anything, not because of a misconception that Marvin Lewis and Co. would take him for his checkered past.
In fact, Mathieu has become underrated by some, and if he is there in the third or fourth round, the Bengals would be foolish to pass on him.
Yes, Brandon Tate is back for now as the return man after Cincinnati failed to sign Ted Ginn, but his inadequacy at his one job on kicks and punts makes it hard to imagine he will be on the 53-man roster by the time the season rolls around.
Cincinnati also has a minor need at cornerback. Dre Kirkpatrick, Leon Hall and the recently re-signed Adam Jones are slated to be the top three corners, but adding a developmental talent in Mathieu to replace the oft-injured Brandon Ghee couldn't hurt.
The bottom line is, there aren't many Heisman-finalist defensive backs entering the draft this year, nor are there many players as dynamic on special teams.
Of course, there also aren't many players in the draft who have openly admitted a marijuana addiction, been to rehab and spent the last year out of football as a result of his actions (per ESPN).
If Mathieu is to be believed, he has learned from his off-field issues. It wouldn't be fair to act like he is an anomaly—most college kids at one point or another are not saints, and he's certainly not the first to enter the draft with a checkered past.
Mathieu's size at 5'9" is an issue, but his speed and ball skills more than make up for that if teams use him properly, which would be in the slot.
Should the Bengals select Tyrann Mathieu in the midrounds of the draft?
Under defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, the Bengals love having extra defensive backs on the field most of the time, whether it be an extra corner or safety. Having that extra player in passing situations be Mathieu, who is known as a turnover machine after the outstanding instincts and ball skills he has flashed to this point in his career, would be nothing but a good thing.
Mathieu is working hard to convince NFL teams he has cleaned up his act and is ready to make positive contributions on and off the field. If Cincinnati takes him, the staff and players will work hard to make sure he stays out of trouble and reaches his full potential—just ask Adam Jones.
It's a potential pick that could split the fanbase right down the middle, but if the Bengals have the option of taking Mathieu in the third or fourth round, the team has to at least consider it.
The point of the NFL draft is to upgrade the roster with a minimal number of picks, and Mathieu does that in more ways than one.
For this reason, don't be shocked if the Honey Badger is wearing orange and black stripes next season.
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