So as I was watching that offensive eruption from LSU last night, I started to think about what Tyrann Mathieu is going to play in the NFL. A co-worker and I discussed it this morning following a game where it seemed like the Tiger defense was on the field the entire time. The Louisiana State so-called offense did not even cross mid-field until their second to last possession of the game.
So we got a lot of air time for the “Honey Badger” last night, and boy did he under perform for a Heisman Trophy finalist. He looked lost last night covering Darius Hanks and Kevin Norwood. He is supposed to be one of the best secondary players in the country, but last night it looked like he fit in very well with the Patriots defensive backs. He got turned around in coverage several times, seemed lost pre-snap on multiple plays, and over compensated on the run in most of Alabama’s possessions. He can hit hard, he is fast, he is a ball hawk, a play-maker, a solid punt returner, and has an enormous phallus (look it up), but where does that put him in the NFL?
Does he go to the NFL as a corner, a strong safety, a free safety, a punt returner, a nickle back, a rover, I just cant figure this kid out. He is only a sophomore so we do not have to worry about this until next year, but where does he fit in an NFL secondary?
He is not the biggest guy on the field, that has been made clear when covering taller receivers (case in point when Hanks just jumped over him and took the ball from him early in the 2nd quarter). He is listed as 5’9″ and I can guarantee he is probably barely pushing 5’8″. Is he going to be able to cover Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Vincent Jackson, Victor Cruz, Marques Colston, Brandon Marshall, Roddy White, Dwayne Bowe, AJ Green, Dez Bryant, or soon to be pro Justin Blackmon? I doubt it. They are all tall, physical, wide receivers that can leap up over anybody that is under 6′, and Honey Badger slips into that category of small corners.
A very big key to a game that tends to fall onto the safeties a lot is covering the opposing teams tight ends. Can Mathieu go 1 on 1 with Gronk or even Hernandez? Can he post up with Jimmy Graham or Tony Gonzalez? Can he run down the field and still be in good enough position to get in front of Jermichael Finley or Vernon Davis without being boxed out? Also, is he smart enough to recognize an offensive package pre-snap? I saw him looking around a little bit confused last night in Alabama’s somewhat complex offense. The offensive schemes only get harder in the NFL so the safety has to be able to read everything just like the Quarterbacks do. Dont know if he can do that all.
Plain and simple the Honey Badger is going to get drafted there is not doubt. He can get taken simply on his athletic ability, but he is going to be tested at all kinds of positions. He will probably get taken by the Raiders and his career will be ruined when they start him day 1 as a corner and he gets destroyed by Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. Or the Broncos take him to replace Brian Dawkins and Gronk and Brady make him look like shit for 3 touchdowns.
I am very interested to see what happens to this kid in the next few years. Can he develop into that Darrelle Revis type lock-down corner? Can he mold himself after the Bob Sanders and Ed Reeds of the world? Or is he going to be just another guy who gets in the game on 3rd down where the fans say “Who is that Mathieu guy that just got burnt by Wes Welker.” We shall see…