On November 29, former LSU star cornerback Tyrann Mathieu announced he would be entering the 2013 NFL draft in hopes of extending his football career after a disastrous end to his college stint. In a few months, Mathieu will go undrafted, and for good reason.
As the NFL continues to watch its image muddled by off-the-field actions of its players, coaches have taken a liking to college prospects with resumes that don’t include arrests for drug and alcohol issues. Albeit late, the league and its teams have finally started to reward players for their character while shunning others who cannot conduct themselves professionally both on and off the field.
So why would any NFL team be willing to spend a draft pick on a deceivingly-average player like Mathieu who seems incapable of keeping himself clean and out of trouble? Well, they wouldn’t.
Sure, Mathieu is a playmaker at cornerback who rode the momentum of LSU’s undefeated season to a Heisman Trophy candidacy. When you take a real look at what he offers physically and technically, though, it’s not as impressive as the praise he receives would make you believe.
Mathieu is a player who always happens to be in the right place at the right time. His athleticism and instincts put him into position to make big plays, and that was huge for the Tigers in 2011. When it comes to his mechanics and all-around abilities as a cornerback, though, the gold plating flakes away and uncovers an unpolished player. The fact that he won’t have an opportunity like the Senior Bowl to impress coaches and scouts makes matters even worse.
During last year’s draft, a talented linebacker by the name of Vontaze Burfict went undrafted due to off-the-field issues. Formerly of Arizona State, Burfict was an elite talent coming out of college and showed glimpses of greatness throughout his years with the Sun Devils. An uncontrollable temper, bad attitude and struggles with off-the-field matters, however, made him a less-than-desirable prospect for NFL teams. He joined the Cincinnati Bengals as an undrafted rookie free agent and has since impressed, but the fact remains that his character concerns dropped him through the draft despite his potential as an impact player.
If NFL teams thought that Burfict had some issues, they’ve got another thing coming with Mathieu. The kid has been arrested and can’t seem to put down the bong long enough to pass a drug test. If he doesn’t have the mental toughness to stay clean so that he can have a future in football, why would that change as an NFL player? If anything, the stature and money that comes with the gig would only heighten the risk.
Even if a team like the Baltimore Ravens saw their locker room as a place where Mathieu could thrive, his lack of elite physical skills make him too much of a liability to spend a draft pick on. Even if someone does gamble on him, it won’t be until the sixth or seventh round.
With a tarnished image like Mathieu’s, there’s nowhere else to go but up. The months leading up to the 2013 NFL draft will be crucial for the Honey Badger, who will need to prove that his immaturity is behind him. It won’t matter, though, if he can’t keep himself out of trouble between now and then.
The chances are very slim that Mathieu hears his name called on draft day. I wouldn’t hold my breath.