Tyrann Mathieu: Would the Detroit Lions Draft Honey Badger?

By Chris Katje
Derick Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

Injuries to cornerbacks and safeties this year have shown just how short the Detroit Lions are in their secondary. The area was a major concern during the off-season that the Lions ignored during the free agency period. The Lions did draft three cornerbacks in the 2012 NFL Draft, but none have panned out as planned for the team so far.

On Thursday, it was announced that troubled LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu will be entering the 2013 NFL Draft. Mathieu, known as the Honey Badger, was suspended by LSU earlier this season after failing drug tests and an arrest for drug possession. Rather than move onto a smaller Division II team, Mathieu re-enrolled at LSU and is not currently playing football.

With all the Lions struggles at defensive back, would the team be interested in taking him in the upcoming draft? The answer should be yes. Mathieu was a star when he played at LSU, winning awards and helping the team to a BCS National Championship game.

In his 2012 freshman season, Mathieu played all 13 games for LSU and even started one. He had 59 tackles, 4.5 sacks and 2 interceptions during the season. In 2011, Mathieu ended the season with 71 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries and 2 interceptions. The Honey Badger also was a punt returner and had 420 yards on 26 returns. Mathieu took two of those punt returns back for touchdowns.

Mathieu was honored with All-American honors for his outstanding 2011 season. He also was named to the All SEC Team and was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. Mathieu also won the Chuck Bednarik Award, which gave LSU back to back wins, after Patrick Peterson won it in 2010. Tyrann was also a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2011, where he finished in 5th place with 327 votes, including 34 first place votes.

Mathieu received the nickname Honey Badger for his tough football play against larger opponents. Mathieu’s 5’9” build earned him the nickname, but will also scare away several professional football teams. Mathieu’s size has limited his draft ratings and has analysts seeing him as a zone option and not an every down cornerback. Another thing that will scare off potential NFL teams is Mathieu’s substance abuse trouble. The Lions gambled on Nick Fairley and Mikel Leshoure, two players with prior substance abuse issues.

The play of Drayton Florence and Chris Houston has been okay for the Lions, but the team has no depth at the position. The Lions took three cornerbacks in the 2012 NFL Draft. Third-round draft pick Bill Bentley is on season-ending injured reserve, after playing in four games. Fifth-round pick Chris Greenwood has missed the entire season after having abdominal surgery. Sixth-round draft pick Jonte Green has played as a backup and has 13 tackles and one interception.

Mathieu is a risky pick, but if he is still on the board in the third round or later, the Lions should have the courage to take the Honey Badger and hope for the best.

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