The Arizona Cardinals went out on a limb and drafted Tyrann Mathieu with the 69th pick of the 2013 NFL draft. The former LSU cornerback didn't play a single college snap during the 2012 season after being dismissed from the team for a failed drug test.
However, Mathieu proved to be one of the most dynamic defensive players in the country when on the field. His abilities as a playmaker far outweigh the risks.
Let's start with the most obvious reason why Mathieu is a perfect fit for Arizona. He's an incredible playmaker who consistently creates good things with the ball in his hands.
Mathieu is the type of player who you can line up all over the field, sit back and wait for him to make an impact. The reality is that defenses can't have enough of these types of players on the field.
As Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports points out, Mathieu has the ability to turn games completely around for a team:
I know Tyrann Mathieu has many issues, but can't forget he was the guy who flipped the switch for #LSU in so many games.— Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) April 27, 2013
On top of his defensive abilities, Mathieu is also dynamic as a punt and kick returner. While this job is currently owned by former teammate Patrick Peterson, Mathieu could instantly help take the load off Peterson as he strives to focus more on being a shutdown cornerback.
The biggest reason why the Cardinals are an ideal landing spot for Mathieu is because of the support system he'll have in place. Not only will he have his former LSU mentor Peterson as a teammate, but the Cardinals also drafted Kevin Minter in the second round of this year's draft. Minter also spent time alongside Mathieu in the LSU defense.
Both of these players know Mathieu, and both will be a huge help in making sure that he keeps his head on straight off the field. However, the decision to stay focused on the game of football ultimately comes down to Mathieu.
So far, he's said the right things. Joe Schad of ESPN tweeted out a quote from a Mathieu interview with Trey Wingo, where Mathieu seemed ready to do whatever was necessary to move on from his previous off-field issues:
Tyrann Mathieu just told Trey Wingo he's OK w weekly drug tests by Arizona Cardinals. "Marijuana is not an issue."— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) April 27, 2013
As long as Mathieu can stay out of trouble—and the Cardinals have done a great job of creating a support system to keep him accountable—Arizona can sit back and enjoy what he brings to the field.
One concern surrounding Mathieu's smooth transition from college football to the NFL was people simply didn't know what position he'd play in the league. At only 5'9" and 186 pounds, he's undersized to line up against bigger receivers like Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green.
What is Mathieu's ceiling in the NFL?
That led many to believe that Mathieu's main position in the NFL would be as a nickel cornerback where he could cover slot receivers. However, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com reported shortly after the draft that Mathieu will be playing free safety in Arizona.
There is no doubt that Mathieu has the playmaking capabilities to play free safety. Even though his size is a major question, his new head coach, Bruce Arians, doesn't seem to think that will slow him down from making an impact.
The fact that the Cardinals view Mathieu as such a versatile player continues to prove just how perfect of a fit this is for the two parties involved.
The Kid Can Play
The most important thing when talking about Mathieu and Arizona being a perfect fit is to realize that the kid can flat-out play. As you can see in the highlight video below, Mathieu is a player who makes play after play after play.
That's what NFL defenses need to be successful, and that's what the Cardinals will get out of Mathieu. While Arizona certainly took some risk in drafting Mathieu with such a high pick, the reward will absolutely outweigh the risk in this perfect matchup of player and team.