2013 NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Tyrann Mathieu

February 6th, 2013

The “Honey Badger” still has a chance to be drafted in the 2013 NFL Draft. (photo courtesy of sportsillustrated.cnn.com)

DraftBrowns.com Editor: Brendan Leister

Tyrann Mathieu is one of the most intriguing players in the 2013 NFL Draft.  After taking college football by storm during the 2011 season and placing 5th in the Heisman Trophy voting, Mathieu was subsequently kicked off LSU’s football team.  Mathieu was reportedly a repeat offender of the team’s substance abuse policy.  Although he sat out the 2012 season so he could work on his off-the-field issues, Mathieu should still be drafted this April.

The first thing that stands out when you watch Tyrann Mathieu are his instincts.  Mathieu has a knack for making big plays in big moments.  He is an excellent punt returner and he has the ability to take it the distance any time the ball is in his hands.  Getting the ball into Mathieu’s hands was never an issue for LSU even though he wasn’t on the offensive side of the ball.  He intercepted four passes (two in each season) and recovered six fumbles (four during his sophomore season and two during his freshman season).  Mathieu scored two touchdowns on defense and two touchdowns on punt returns during his sophomore season.  When Mathieu is trying to tackle a ball carrier, he is always trying to strip the ball.  He forced five fumbles during his freshman season and six fumbles during his sophomore season.  With always trying to strip the ball came some struggles with getting ball carriers on the ground at times, but when he wasn’t trying to do too much, he showed decent tackling form for the most part.  Mathieu was a very productive blitzer in his college career.  He created 4.5 sacks during his freshman season and 1.5 sacks during his sophomore season.  I’m not a big stats guy, but the numbers don’t lie here.  Mathieu has a knack for creating splash plays and his superior instincts are a big reason for it.

In the NFL, Tyrann Mathieu will probably be best covering the slot.  His lack of size (listed at 5’9”, 175 lbs. in college) will make him a liability covering wide receivers on the outside.  Mathieu shows impressive instincts and awareness in zone coverage.  Although I expected him to struggle when he was matched up one on one with wide receivers in man coverage, he actually did a decent job.  Mathieu showed the ability to flip his hips and run with receivers, but he wasn’t asked to do this very often.  His cover skills are a work in progress overall, but there is definitely something there to build on.  It’s possible that Mathieu could make a transition to safety in the NFL, but I still feel that covering the slot is the best fit for him.

On special teams, Tyrann Mathieu has experience as a punt returner along with covering punts and kicks.  Mathieu is fearless as a returner.  On multiple occasions, he fielded punts on the bounce and even fielded one punt inside his own 1-yard line.  There is no doubt that Mathieu will be a contributor on special teams in his professional career.

All in all, I expect Tyrann Mathieu to be an early day three pick when the 2013 NFL Draft rolls around.  A lot will depend on how comfortable teams are with his character after they interview with him, but I can’t see a guy with his skill set going undrafted.  Mathieu has an uncanny knack for making things happen and every team in the NFL needs a player that can do that.  Barring any off-the-field issues and as long as he’s used in the right capacity (covering the slot), I feel the “Honey Badger” has a bright future ahead of him as he transitions to the next chapter of his football career.

Tyrann Mathieu Scouting Notes

West Virginia 2011:

Blitzes off right slot and gets held.  If it weren’t for the hold, would’ve probably had a sack.  Hold went uncalled.

Gives up a catch in zone coverage, but strips the ball and takes it out of the receiver’s hands.

First one downfield in punt coverage, catches the punt at the two yard line and falls down.  Great play.

In man coverage with right slot receiver, gives up inside on slant route and gets beat by a step.  Receiver drops the pass and the safety intercepts it on the ricochet.

Lined up as left slot defender, comes downhill and tackles running back near LOS.

Covering right slot receiver, gets beat by a step on whip route and gives up seven yards on the catch.

Missed a few tackles during the game due to poor angles and lunging.

Blitzes off right slot, tips screen pass up in the air, catches it, and returns it down near the 1-yard line.

Arkansas 2011:

Makes solo tackle down the field after a receiver made a catch against a different defender.

Fields a punt at the 8-yard line, makes two cuts and takes it 92 yards for the TD.

Comes down hill and makes a tackle on the ball carrier.  While making the tackle, he rips the ball out.

Pursues a receiver that just caught the ball and instead of trying to make the tackle, goes for the strip.  After stripping the ball, he catches it and returns it for around 20 yards.

Georgia 2011:

Comes up and makes a solo tackle on the RB in the flat for a loss after the RB caught a pass.  Great tackle.

Blitzed from right slot and forced the QB out of the pocket by beating the RB’s block.

Avoids being blocked by slot receiver and makes solo tackle on RB after a ten yard gain.

Pursues the ball carrier after he gets past the first level and doesn’t wrap him up.  Results in a missed tackle.

Fields a punt at his own 38-yard line, makes a man miss, makes a cut near the opposite 48-yard line to make another defender miss, cuts back inside, then cuts back to the outside for the touchdown. (tossed the ball to the official before crossing the goal line. Not a smart play on his part but the TD still counted)

Had another spectacular punt return in which he fielded the ball at his own 35 yard line and made six defenders miss on the way to being tackled at the opposite 19-yard line.

Blitzed off right slot unblocked.  QB took off running and Mathieu pursued him and tackled him for a 2-yard gain.

Tennessee 2011:

Showing more physicality in man coverage than seen in other games.

Also lining up as a CB on the outside more often in this game than others.

Lines up in man coverage with slot receiver and gets beat because the receiver gets physical with him and creates separation.  Mathieu struggles to get the WR on the ground after a big gain because he was trying to strip the football.

Lined up in man coverage in slot, receiver runs a whip route and Mathieu jumps the route.  When he dives for the ball, he puts his left arm on the receiver’s back and gets called for pass interference.

Lines up at LCB in man coverage with WR on outside.  Receiver runs a curl route and Mathieu does a good job of sticking with him and breaks up the pass with his right arm.

Florida 2011:

Sits back in zone coverage, reads the screen pass to his side, and quickly attacks downhill, putting a big hit on the RB for a 6-yard loss.

Drops into zone coverage, recognizes receiver catching a pass in the flat.  Comes up and tries to tackle the ball carrier low, but misses because the player hurdles him.  Great play by the ball carrier.

Lined up at LCB, avoids a block by the WR and pursues the QB running to the outside.  Makes a great form solo tackle in space to bring the player down.

Lined up at LCB in man coverage with WR.  WR runs a go route and Mathieu sticks with him the entire way downfield.  Goes up at the same time as the WR and intercepts the ball at its highest point inside the 1-yard line.  Play results in a touchback.

Tags: 2013 Cornerback Prospects, 2013 NFL Draft, Honey Badger, LSU, NFL, NFL Draft, Prospect Profile, Third Round Pick, Tyrann Mathieu

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