Is Tyrann Mathieu Just Too Big a Risk for NFL Teams to Take?

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystApril 12, 2013

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 09:  Tyrann Mathieu #7 of the Louisiana State University Tigers reacts after breaking up a play against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the 2012 Allstate BCS National Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 9, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Every year in the NFL draft there are "risk/reward" selections, and the reason for the risk with some of those picks is a checkered past.

This year the poster child for those problem players is former LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, and the most recent news regarding the "Honey Badger" hasn't done anything to allay the concerns that NFL teams have about his time in Baton Rouge.

The 5'9" 186-pound defensive back, who was kicked off the team at LSU in August of 2012 after multiple failed drug tests, has been making the rounds, visiting teams across the National Football League in advance of April's NFL draft.

On one of these visits Mathieu was asked just how many drug tests he failed while with the Tigers, and according to Jarrett Bell of USA Today the answer Mathieu provided was alarming.

"I quit counting at 10. I really don't know."

The idea that Mathieu would continue smoking marijuana after being caught time after time after time is certainly cause for some concern, as is the fact that Mathieu was arrested for possession of the drug a couple of months after being kicked off the team.

After all, if he did that while at LSU, what's he going to do once he has that signing bonus check in his pocket? Bong hits?

At the end of the day though, this latest "revelation" really isn't one. We already knew that Mathieu had failed numerous drug tests. The fact that it was over 10 is as much an indictment of the atmosphere of entitlement that appears to exist in Baton Rouge, as it is another black mark against Mathieu's character.

Is Mathieu something of a risky pick? Absolutely. Sure, Mathieu claims to have put his substance abuse issues behind him, telling Dan Hanzus of that during a visit with the Patriots, New England brass was very blunt (pardon the pun) in asking why Mathieu couldn't (or wouldn't) stop using marijuana.

At the time, I didn't know why I couldn't stop. I think I was addicted to it. I had formed a true habit of it, but I think looking back on it, I couldn't stop because I didn't want to.

However, it's certainly not unreasonable for NFL teams to be concerned that Mathieu will fall back onto bad habits, especially with a pocket full of money and under the increased pressure the NFL brings with it.

That concern, combined with the fact that Mathieu's diminutive size will likely limit him to a role as a slot corner and special teams ace, makes selecting Mathieu something of a roll of the dice.

With that said though, there's a reason why any number of NFL teams are lining up for their turn at the craps table.

That reason is talent.

Remember, we're talking about a player who won the Bednarik Award in 2011, which is given to the top defensive player in college football. That year, as a sophomore, Mathieu was the first defensive player in over a decade invited to New York as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.

Mathieu is an excellent player in coverage, plays much bigger than his size and has always had a knack for making the big play, whether it's on defense or in the return game.

Those talents are very much in demand in today's pass-happy NFL, and the new collective bargaining agreement signed in 2011 makes the financial investment involved with drafting Mathieu a lot less than it would have been even a few years ago.

And that's why some NFL team is going to take a calculated gamble on Mathieu, hoping that the young man has learned from his mistakes and is serious about making the most of a second chance at a career playing the game he says he loves.

Maybe it will be the Cincinnati Bengals, who have a history of acquiring troubled players and who Mathieu is scheduled to visit Friday. Maybe it will be the New England Patriots, who ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper reportedly feels will select Mathieu in the second round this April.

With Mathieu, talent is going to trump trouble. The possible reward will win out over the potential risk, and by the end of the fourth round the next chapter of Mathieu's football life will have begun.

Regardless of how many drug tests he failed at Louisiana State.