The first thing I thought about when it was reported that Tyrann Mathieu would be ousted by LSU’s football program, indefinitely, was his future in the NFL. It wasn’t whether or not he’d be able to return to the Tigers’ football team or whether he’d transfer.
The general concern, from me at least, was how his dismissal affects his future as a professional defensive back. Believe it or not, college football players are given a leash in which they can screw themselves over and be jerked back to a position of triumph, which is undoubtedly what will happen to Mathieu.
Whether or not he is in the spotlight for what he accomplishes on the field for whatever program he will transfer to, as he is expected to make a decision by Wednesday, Mathieu will still be a hot topic for the 2013 NFL Draft, and here are several NFL franchise that would be interested in the Honey Badger.
The Detroit Lions are one of those NFL franchises.
The Lions would be criticized for the pick if they were to make it during the 2013 NFL Draft. Tyrann Mathieu hasn’t done anything in the offseason to crown himself worthy for the draft position he wiggled himself into right after the 2011 NCAA Football season. Mathieu was an explosive, game-changing, undersized corner that was often beat out physically by larger runners and receivers.
What Mathieu lacks in size and strength, however, he makes up with a blossoming technique and unteachable instincts for the ball. A large part as to why LSU’s defense was so formidable last season was because of how unpredictable Mathieu had become. After Patrick Peterson was drafted in the 2012 NFL Draft, there was talk that the hole he left in the Tigers’ defense would not be soon filled by anyone on the roster.
Along came Mathieu and that notion was quickly tossed out of the window as the small defensive back performed his way right into Heisman nominations alongside Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Montee Ball and Trent Richardson—all offensive players.
Mathieu was anything but a shoo-in for the award, but it spoke volumes that he was nominated in the first place as a defensive player.
After releasing Aaron Berry, due to multiple arrests this offseason, the Lions’ defensive backfield has become thinner than usual, and it wasn’t all that great last season to begin with. Detroit will also be going into the season without Eric Wright, who they lost in free agency to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and safety Louis Delmas.
The secondary still has Alphonso Smith, Chris Houston and the newly-signed Jacob Lacy, speculated to take on the starter position in the absence of Berry and Wright. Bill Bentley is the next bright spot in the Lions’ secondary, but after him, the outlook grows bleak.
Injecting Mathieu into the Lions’ roster would be another step in the direction that the Lions took when they signed Lacy this offseason. Mathieu may be attributed to being a subpar cover corner, however, according to the Lions’ head coach Jim Schwartz, “the days of the cover corner didn’t last very long” anyway.
Focusing on what he is instead of what he isn’t, Mathieu ranked fifth overall in fumble recoveries as he recovered five of the six fumbles he forced throughout the season. The ugly truth is that while Mathieu is a smaller man than the position has once required, he makes up for his lack of size by being the smarter and more agile defender on the field, despite a few penalties he sustained on asinine coverages.
Mathieu is also a lethal punt returner having accrued 429 yards during the 2011 football season. Stefan Logan, the Lions’ current punt returner, is recognizing his roots at the running back position, and based on how Detroit performs in this area, Mathieu’s agility and elusiveness could be ideal.
What is made very little of, especially in light of his return performance against the Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC championship, was that Mathieu’s vision is what got him so far down the field.
His off-field issues may not be looked upon with content. The Detroit Lions' players haven’t given themselves an incredible boost in the perception of their character. Still, there is rarely a soul who could say that Mathieu isn’t worth the opportunity.
The Lions have flaws in the areas that Mathieu has proven he can excel in and most likely improve in.
With a falling stock in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Lions could find their man.