San Francisco 49ers Should Roll Dice on Tyrann Mathieu

By Travis Chan
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

After his three-year roller-coaster stay at LSU, Tyrann Mathieu is set to turn pro. During his time in Baton Rouge, Mathieu appeared on countless highlight reels and took part in a number of breathtaking plays.

However, off-field concerns plummeted his draft stock, making some NFL teams hesitant to take him. But, with 14 draft picks at their disposal, the San Francisco 49ers should gamble on the “Honey Badger.” The two would form a perfect match.

Despite making the right moves during the off-season to fill their needs, the 49ers cannot have enough playmakers. As a Tiger, Mathieu received a handful of noteworthy accomplishments.

In 2011, he was named an All-American, made the First-team All-SEC and secured the Chuck Bednarik Award. Last year, Mathieu was dismissed from the LSU football team for violating team policy. Even though there was not a specific reason why he got kicked off the team, the 20-year old has a history of failed drug tests.

Working for Mathieu, the NFL Draft is just over a month away, which gives him an opportunity to reboot his playing career.

The 5-foot-9 corner is a high-risk, high-reward option who possesses the skills to change the outcome of a game. While he lacks ideal size and straight-line speed, he has a knack for making plays. Mathieu is also capable of contributing on special teams, as he averaged 16.2 yards per punt return in 2011 and scored two touchdowns.

San Francisco is gearing up to make a consecutive trip to the Super Bowl. Right now, they need to target players who can make an immediate impact, and Mathieu can do just that. If not for his off-field troubles, he’d easily be a first-round selection. But based off his red flags, Mathieu is projected to go in the mid-to-late rounds.

Since general manager Trent Baalke and head coach Jim Harbaugh took control of the 49ers franchise in 2011, the organization has gone 24-7-1 with an NFC Championship and Super Bowl appearance. It’s safe to say they know what they’re doing. Given their proven track record, San Francisco should be an appealing landing spot for many free agents and incoming rookies.

If Mathieu gets to learn under Harbaugh, it would go a long ways in accelerating his development. With proper coaching, he has potential to reclaim his star status. Playing alongside Patrick Willis, Justin Smith and Donte Whitner, the young corner would have well-respected veterans to turn to for advice. The 49ers have the environment in place for Mathieu to succeed both short and long term.

The former Tiger makes for a nice fit, as he is both talented and covers two positional needs for the 49ers: a nickel cornerback and kick/punt returner.

In spite of his short stature, he plays a physical game, forcing 11 fumbles in two collegiate seasons. Though he was solid in coverage at LSU, there are questions if he can stick to NFL-caliber wideouts on a consistent basis.

Now that Ted Ginn is gone, Mathieu could also see some time fielding punts. He lacks elite speed, but Mathieu can get by with his quickness and fluid change of direction.

Any team that selects the Honey Badger will certainly be taking a risk. However, if he shows commitment, the sky’s the limit for him. Since San Francisco has an army of draft picks on hand, why not take the plunge? For them, it’s about quality and upside over quantity.

It’s time to go all in.

 You can follow Travis on Twitter @TravisChan1

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