The Honey Badger is a Tiger no more. After reportedly violating LSU’s drug policy multiple times, Tyrann Mathieu was booted from the team, has checked into a rehabilitation center and is (hopefully) getting clean. So how will it affect his draft stock?
Mathieu is difficult enough to evaluate with his on-the-field play. He’s smaller than average, even for a cornerback, and he doesn’t translate as an on-the-island, man-to-man corner that the NFL craves. However, he’s a playmaker. He has a nose for the ball and is capable of changing the course of a game at any moment. He was also a Heisman Trophy finalist and the winner of the Bednarik Award, as the nation’s best defensive player last year.
Add to that mix the drug issue, and you’ve got a recipe for uncertainty.
Looking back to April’s NFL draft, however, we may be able to find some clues to Mathieu’s future. A former Florida player with similar off-the-field issues was forced to transfer to an FCS school – Janoris Jenkins, also a cornerback. Jenkins is distinguishable, though, in that he also fathered multiple children with different women – a character issue that goes beyond mere drug use. Jenkins, a clear first-round talent according to experts, is also a more traditional-style corner.
The St. Louis Rams agreed to a four-year deal with Jenkins after drafting him in the early part of the second round. On the field, Mathieu might be considered a first-rounder by some teams, probably most teams – and definitely by teams with holes in their secondary.
Another factor to consider in light of the Jenkins situation is that the North Alabama corner was selected by Jeff Fisher, a coach who is not afraid to take on players labeled “difficult,” “problematic” or “character-issue.” Additionally, the Rams were in desperate need of defensive playmakers. Mathieu might need a similar situation if he wants to land in the top 40 picks.
But as they say, it only takes one team willing to take a chance. And chances are the Honey Badger will be too sweet for a desperate team with holes in its secondary to pass up in … the late first round, I’d guess. But that’s assuming he continues to perform at the same level on Saturdays and, obviously, that there are no more failed drug tests.