A quick thought on Tyrann Mathieu

February 2nd, 2013 | Written by Rob Staton

He’s probably the most talked about draft prospect, and he’s the player I get the most emails about. It seems every NFL fan, whichever team you follow, is wondering whether they’ll take a chance on Tyrann Mathieu.

In 2011 he recorded 71 tackles, 1.5 sacks, five forced fumbles (two returned for touchdowns) and two interceptions. He had two further scores via punt returns. Mathieu was the very definition of a game changing playmaker. That’s not easy for a 5-9, 180lbs cornerback.

Beneath all the stats and game changing ability lay a fierce competitor. There’s no real secret to Mathieu’s success — he plays the game his way. With attitude, style and ferocity. He takes superb angles when challenging for the ball, he’s quicker than fast covering space and he’s instinctive. He can be a walking highlight reel.

That enamoured him to the TV cameras, while the ‘Honey Badger’ nickname he inherited became increasingly over-used as announcers began to mention it every time LSU’s defense was on the field. The attention worked and he was a Heisman finalist — losing out to Robert Griffin III.

The fact he had become the face of LSU’s football program perhaps masked some of the glaring issues within his game. What is he at the next level? His back pedal simply isn’t good enough to warrant serious consideration as a natural corner. Size is a major concern against the bigger receivers in the NFL. You can throw in behind Mathieu because he struggles to locate the ball when it’s not played in front. His balance is surprisingly poor given he’s compact and short. I don’t like his footwork at all.

He’s going to be a nickel corner with limited responsibilities. I understand why that makes him intriguing to Seahawks fans because the position caused a lot of problems in 2012. However… how could you possibly trust this guy at the next level?

Mathieu’s career was on life support when the Tigers basically kicked him off the team for ‘violating of team policy’ (aka, drug use) prior to the 2012 season. Rather than transfer to a small school like Janoris Jenkins, Mathieu wanted to wait it out. See if he can repair the damage at LSU and play football again in 2014. He promised to seek help and learn from his mistakes.

This had been a pretty serious issue for Mathieu previously. He’d already served a one-game ban for violating the teams drug policy. He ignored that warning before finally being dismissed Les Miles.

Time for the wake up call, Mr. Mathieu.

In August he entered a drug rehabilitation program in Houston. So far so good. He was saying the right things, he was getting support from his family. He made all sorts of vows and promises to learn from his mistakes. Could he get his career back on track? Remember, it’s hanging by a thread. Then on October 25th, he and three other LSU players were arrested for possession of marijuana. Here we go again.

Ask yourself this… at what point does a player become too much of a liability? If he’s prepared to keep ignoring warnings, continues to make the same mistakes — don’t you have to sit up and take notice? LSU were pretty emphatic when they’d had enough. Now you’re going to pay him and potentially move him to a state where Marijuana was recently legalised? I’m not sure about that.

I think he’ll ultimately prove to be the kind of player you let somebody else worry about. Let another team take a shot. Is it really worth disrupting the harmony in your dressing room, adding a bad influence and a guy who hasn’t shown he can stay away from drugs all for the sake of a nickel corner? Not for me.

There are teams in the league — such as the Cincinnati Bengals — who appear to thrive on taking little gambles like this. Vontaze Burfict is a great example and he had a terrific rookie season. But that doesn’t mean Mathieu can also perform well and stay away from trouble.

He’s doing all the right things — he visited the Senior Bowl in Mobile as part of a full-court press on the leagues reps attending the event. He managed to secure a place at the combine. He’s going to have to work extremely hard to get a team to trust him whatever he does. He has to prove he’s a changed man.

Is the upside great enough to warrant a pick on the first two days of the draft? I’d argue not. He might fall to day three (rounds 4-7). Like Burfict he might be an UDFA.

Personally I’d need to be extremely convinced he was over his drug problems to even consider taking a shot. Completely over them too this time, not over for two months. It’s not even so much him I’d be concerned about, it’s that he might drag others down with him. The Seahawks like a challenge as much as anyone — but they haven’t been reckless in selecting their players. Mathieu would be a much bigger gamble than trading for Marshawn Lynch, drafting Bruce Irvin or giving a trial to Terrell Owens.

For the sake of a decent nickel corner, I’d probably just look elsewhere. Remember this — there’s a reason Les Miles dismissed a star player and a Heisman finalist. And it’s not because he’s the ‘mad hatter’.

33 Responses to “A quick thought on Tyrann Mathieu”

  1. Rory says:

    What do you think about him as a back up to Earl?

    He’s not as big, or as fast, but as you said he is quick and instinctive. I’m sure he could do a decent job patrolling center field. He’s a good tackler for his size, and he doesn’t waste many steps, which is arguably more important than being purely fast. I could see him covering some serious ground and picking off a pass similar to what Earl did in the playoffs.

    Do I think he would be as good at it as Earl? No, but thats why he would be a back up. I bet he would do a better job than Maragos. I wouldn’t spend a high pick on him, but if he drops to the 5th, I think it’s worth the risk.

    For the record, I don’t see him as a corner at the next level for the reasons mentioned above, even as a nickel. He is a guy that you try and find a way to get on the field though, and FS might be the best way.

    As far as his drug problem, I do think it’s a little overblown. As far as I know the main culprit is weed? As he gets older and matures I bet some of the drug related problems disappear. More importantly, it never affected is effort during games. He’s full speed ahead, and we’ve seen Carroll but that above other character concerns.

    • Zach says:

      I would only take him if he were to be a starter. What Rob said has some weight though, we don’t want a bad influence in the locker room. Let someone else take the chance, we don’t need him anyway.

  2. dave crockett says:

    Umm, yeah.

    People love the aura, but Mathieu is the anti-Russell Wilson. I don’t just mean the off-the-field stuff. Wilson “tilted the room” in the way Schneider talked about. On a Wisconsin team that will generate a good number of pros, Wilson made those guys better.

    Mathieu was put in position to make really good plays by the surrounding talent. They made Mathieu better. There was a great deal he didn’t have to do, as Rob points out. I’m not disparaging Mathieu, but he has HUGE holes in his game. I love the big plays, but he makes me go “meh” as a week-in-week-out player. Add to that, a guy with such horrific decision-making that he risked getting drafted at all for some weed.

    • cade says:

      For the sake of argument, saying Mathieu is the anti-Russell Wilson is like saying that hes the opposite. That would be saying he makes guys worse. We don’t know that to be true. He does feed off the solid playmaking unit around him to allow him to make a lot of risky plays. He is a playmaker… not so much a consistent quality play CB cover guy. In the right situation (like we have) where there is a solid strong defensive supporting cast, it wouldn’t be a bad thing to having a wild playmaking animal in the nickel cb position. That wouldn’t make the team worse.. now if he was a linebacker with very specific lane or gap assignments etc and couldn’t keep discipline I can see some more severe issues.

      So yeah.. anyways in my mind hes a luxury pick to groom and see if he grows into an amazing player, isn’t effective at NFL level or gets stuck in the off field issues. We need a solid CB starter and then Mathieu would be something I would consider being a good move.

  3. Zach says:

    Off topic… Sylvester Williams is ranked as the 9th best DT going into the draft rated by CBS sports draft prospects. He is ranked at #89 total. Would we really take the 89th best player and 9th DT and think he will be the answer at DT for us? I don’t think so. I would suggest outside of the top 4 DT don’t expect anything but a project.

    • kenny says:

      CBS has him ranked really low for some strange reason. Most likely based on only 2 years in NCAA. He is probably the 3rd or 4th best 3 tech. I would take him over several players that are ranked higher than him because he would fit the team better than most. He is a little bigger than the typical 3 tech which actually helps against the run and he has a killer swim move that will work wonders in the nfl. He is not a finished project but he would be a good starter from day one while developing some other moves. He is a bit older as well but that might play to his advantage because he is closer to his physical prime. If you want to judge him against similar positioned guys you can take out Brandon Williams (who probably shouldnt be that high anyways, an overreaction to the senior bowl most likely), John Jenkins, Jon Hankins, and Jesse Williams (although he might be able to be moved around. Also do not see Star as a prime 3 tech candidate and think Short is below Sly Williams but with his great Senior Bowl there is an overreaction to him as well. All in all I think Sly would be the 3rd best 3 tech behind Richardson and Floyd although Floyd is only better based on age. Skill level wise I would rate them pretty close. That is just me though.

    • Rob Staton says:

      I would ignore that ranking and it doesn’t say a great deal about CBS’s draft coverage.

  4. David says:

    With his weed issue and it being legal here in Washington state, i wonder if thats something you could put into consideration

    • woofu says:


      The NFL rules overide any statewide laws on this matter.

      My concern in this division starts out with any players physicality. I get the playmaker attraction but if they lack the size to take or give a beating, I would be concerned first and foremost. SF will continue to pound people and Fisher teams will always be tough.

  5. RW3 says:

    Instead of wasting a late round pick on this guy, why not take a stab at Marcus Lattimore. I used to remember hearing his name on ESPN everyday. Adrian Peterson has come back from a major injury, so why can’t he (not saying he is anywhere near AP level of talent)? Although Turbin is a great supplementary back to Lynch, but if Lattimore DOES come back 100%, why wouldn’t you want that guy on your team?? It’s the about the same risk IMO in both cases. Except one didn’t make any bonehead mistakes while in school…. Just my two cents.

    • williambryan says:

      I’m with you, though I don’t think it has to be an either/or situation. I want Lattimore no matter what else happens on draft day. We all know Lynch means alot to the team but we all know RB’s don’t last that long. Lattimore to me is the closest thing to Lynch we could hope for in the draft (this year, last year, or next year) and may be a bigger threat for the home run play (although that was before the latest injury but I think that isn’t as big of a deal as it used to be).

  6. A. Simmons says:

    I’m with Rob on this one. Probably not wise to have a guy come to Washington with drug problems. We already took a shot on Anthony McCoy. He’s kept clean so far. I don’t know if I want a second risk on the team.

  7. cliff says:

    If the Saints let starting left tackle Bushrod walk in FA this year, how early do you see them taking a tackle? could they pass on a 3 tech if someone like Fisher or Johnson drops? They usually find their tackles late but it could give us one more chance for a guy to drop

  8. TJ says:

    In addition to the off-field stuff, he is small at 5’9, 175 lbs. He doesn’t fit Seattle’s scheme in any way that I can see. No thanks, even if he is there in the 5th or 6th round.

    • Rob Staton says:

      And while Janoris Jenkins was a top-tier prospect with issues, Mathieu is neither ‘all that’ on the field and he has bigger problems off the field too.

    • cade says:

      The small thing isn’t as much of a factor for the Nickel CB position. Quickness is more important than size. At least average height would be nice but his size isn’t a deal breaker for this position within the scheme of seattle.

      • TJ says:

        If the goal is to find a nickel, I have a feeling Schnieder & Carroll will be able to find a prospect with similar quickness, better size, no off-field issues, and the potential to someday develop into a possible starter (or at the very least, press an outside receiver if necessary). I’ll pass on Mathieu.

  9. Rich says:


    I really appreciate you writing this up. I had been wondering about him a lot as well. I’m firmly in the camp of wanting a new nickel corner. I don’t care much about size but quickness at that position. Hopefully the position can be filled in free agency or after the third round but at least I can cross Mathieu off the list.

  10. JC says:

    Mark Lagree and LenDale White are two counter arguments. Lagree was a mid rounder who didn’t even make it to the final cut nor was placed on the practice squad. And White was a low cost acquisition how didn’t or wouldn’t get with the program and was cashiered. Assuming Mathews makes it to say the fourth or fifth round I don’t see why this team doesn’t take a shot at him as a nickel option. And since they’ve show a willingness to ditch loafers and malcontents at the drop of a hat, I’m not too worried about his behavior.

  11. Christon says:

    Good stuff Rob. I doubt the Seahawks draft him too but I wouldn’t right him off completely as a 7th round pick or a UFA invite to camp. Didn’t Anthony McCoy have the same drug issue before the Hawks took at chance on him? Yeah, McCoy didn’t get arrested, but it’s the same issue that I don’t think would automatically eliminate him from consideration. The Hawks also set a good precedent for what for will happen to him if he messes-up once he gets here. If he has any questions he can ask Lendale White.

    Mathieu doesn’t have the size or the length the Hawks covet but he does have some intangibles (competitive, feisty nature, & turnover machine) that Pete LOVES. If he made the team (or practice squad) his primary responsibility would be as a special teamer, which Pete takes very seriously. He could also be used as a 5th corner in the slot. But he’s pretty much restricted to man-to-man duties with an offense’s small, quick WR/ Joker RB (Percy Harvin or Tavon Austin type) that our bigger corners struggled to cover last year. This would really limit the coverages that Seahawks would be able to run him on the field because I highly doubt Pete would allow the other team to use their big WRs on our small corner in a zone, or be switched on a motion because that’s how Pete likes to create mismatches for our team.

    Anyways, it’s a lot of talk for a late round flier at best. I don’t see it happening but to Mathieu’s credit – he seems to be doing the right things now and working out with Patrick Peterson couldn’t hurt either. He’ll be interesting to watch at the combine, if he preforms well enough I think there will be a team that takes a chance on him in the draft.

    • Rob Staton says:

      McCoy didn’t have this level of ‘issue’ though, crucially. He failed a drugs test at the combine and it was a concern. But he hadn’t been kicked off the USC team, checked into rehab, told anyone who’ll listen he was going to knuckle down and get his life and career back on track, only to be caught a few weeks later with a big stash of weed.

  12. SunPathPaul says:

    He isn’t needed. There are other good mid round CB’s. Why infect our team with a possible distraction…

  13. Turp says:

    More off-topic – Datone Jones a possible 3rd pound pick? I’d love that one. From Troy Pauline:

    Teams loved the play of Datone Jones/DL/UCLA during Senior Bowl practices but think he won’t be selected early in the draft. The feeling is he has no real position at the next level and is a hard schematic fit. Right now most say third round.

    He looks like a good fit for us in the Jason Jones role. I wonder if we would take him in the 2nd (maybe double up on DL with a DT in the 1st)

    • Rob Staton says:

      I think he’s going to go in the R2/3 range for sure.

      • relaxxin says:


        what round do you think D’rick rodgers will go?

        • Rob Staton says:

          Hard to tell without doing the kind of background checks teams will do. He’s had a year now without any reported issues playing actual football. That helps. If he can convince teams he’s a changed man, he could be a third rounder. A good pre-draft work out and he could increase momentum even further. If teams feel they just cannot trust him, then he sink like a stone.

  14. Kenny Sloth says:

    Anyone else think Justin Hunter would make a great defender? He was batting down balls thrown to the opposition all year.

    Nickle Corner problem solved.

    Injuries a big concern, though.
    Watch him in space, those lanky little legs look like they’re about to RGIII every time he tries to cut. If added bulk, I would take him in the late second in a heartbeat.

  15. Kenny Sloth says:

    Dallas Thomas looks like the real deal. Totally stonewalled Jadeveon Clowney and Sheldon Richardson. Richardson didn’t look very good against Tennessee at all.


    I give him a first round grade. He reminds me of Marshawn. Great burst, low runner, has a wide array of moves, breaks tackles, good vision. He’s no Trent Richardson, but few are.

    • Kenny Sloth says:

      He runs with such a wide base, and when you try to wrap him up, you can’t get both legs. Then he spins away. He’s so light on his feet. I’ve never seen anything like it.

  16. Kenny Sloth says:

    You watch any Daniel McCullers this year? HUUUUGE DT from Tennessee. Really nice bull rush. He clogs the middle well. I don’t know if he’d stick as a NT, but is a great fit for the 1 tech.

  17. Joshua says:

    I think the Seahawks should draft Marugus Hunt and he would upgrade the pass rush immediatly