The Minnesota Vikings made notable improvements against the pass in 2012, spearheaded by an excellent season from cornerback Antoine Winfield and the presence of safety Harrison Smith. But Winfield was released on the first day of free agency, and despite some rumored interest in a reunion on both sides he looks likely to be elsewhere next season.
So the Vikings are left looking to available veterans and this month’s draft for help at cornerback, and adding someone via one or both avenues looks vital at this point. Could a talented but troubled cornerback be a potential target?
Tyrann Mathieu did not play during the 2012 season at LSU after being dismissed from school for reportedly failing multiple drug tests. He was then arrested for a drug-related offense in October, which took him off-track for a possible return to the LSU football team and led to his declaring for the 2013 NFL Draft.
Mathieu has looked good during the pre-draft process, running an unofficial 4.43-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine while reportedly looking good in position drills. If he is focused on football, as he says he is, and has answered questions about his past in a satisfactory fashion, multiple teams may have interest in drafting the 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist.
Is the “Honey Badger” a fit for the Vikings? Let’s take a closer look.
Weight: 186 lbs.
– Plays confidently and aggressively
– Has natural playmaking skills
– Shows excellent overall instincts; has a nose for the ball
– Is not afraid to play physically; plays bigger than his size
– Has excellent lateral agility; accelerates quickly
– Has experience as a punt returner
– Lacks ideal height; is generally undersized
– Past off-field issues remain a concern with money and prestige possibilities at the next level
– Does not have elite straight-line speed, which creates limitations in man coverage
– Is overly instinctive and aggressive at times, which puts himself and his teammates in tough spots
Mathieu’s ability to play effectively in the slot seems to have a lot of teams interested in him as a potential mid-round pick. Albert Breer of NFL.com has reported 10 teams have a visit scheduled right now, and the Vikings are among them. Mathieu invites easy comparisons to Winfield due to similar physical build and overall skills, which may explain why the Vikings have interest in him.
The Vikings may seek further answers from Mathieu about his past off-field indiscretions during their visit with him, though that is speculative at this point. But if they want more information and get what they are looking for, and he is available at a point where they consider him to be a value, Mathieu could be one of the newest Vikings by the end of the draft.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.