The good folks over at Eye on College football dug up a great nugget from Tyrann Mathieu's time in New York this weekend; seems the Honey Badger has high hopes for going pro following his junior campaign. It is early and as Jerry Hinnen notes after LSU's "embarrassing defeat in the BCS national championship, though, there's still plenty of unfinished business on a team level entering 2012."
That point is definitely a good one as LSU looks to return to the BCS Championship Game and get the win that Alabama kicked them in the teeth and stole this past January. While Mathieu, the Honey Badger, has made himself a household name around college football the question that makes him interesting is not LSU's 2012 prospects but rather what is he at the next level when he does leave.
Whether it is 2013 or 2014 as a senior what exactly does the NFL hold for the defensive back generously listed at 5'9" and 175 lbs. As we saw in the BCS Championship game man-to-man coverage is not exactly his thing at this point in his career. Unlike his defensive backfield mates Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne who were sure thing, best at their position type players destined to be lockdown corners in the league, Mathieu is a football anomaly.
The rising junior was one of the best defensive football players in the nation a year ago. A player who was capable of making big plays, game-changing plays, in many facets of the game, but there is no real box to put Mathieu like most elite NFL prospects.
He's not a lockdown corner. He's not really playing safety for the Tigers. He's not a nickelback and even then nickel guys don't get drafted in the first round unless they're solid cover corners who are going to move into the starting role in a season or two.
However, for everything that he is not we do know that Mathieu is a hell of a football player. He can return punts and get loose for big plays. He can be a part of the blitz package, understands how to make run fits and does have solid ball skills. And let's not forget what he does best, force fumbles, 11 in two years for the sophomore.
The next level has most assuredly heard of Tyrann Mathieu but where he fits in the NFL is a mystery to most of us at this point in the process. In a pass happy league can you afford to sacrifice a true cover corner to get a playmaker like Mathieu on the field? Can the 5'9" kid from New Orleans make a transition to the safety position, a spot that does better suit his actual skillset? Most importantly what coach, in a league rooted in defensive systems, is going to take a chance on the proverbial wildcard that Mathieu presents?
All of these questions will be asked time and again as will the ever pressing question; what will his 40 time be?