Titans Fan Mailbag: Tyrann Mathieu or “Honey Badger”


October 8, 2011; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers cornerback Tyrann Mathieu (7) against the Florida Gators during the first quarter at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Here at Titan Sized, we strive to bring the most up-to-date and in-depth information to dedicated Tennessee Titans fans. One of our newest features is the Fan Mailbag, where we encourage our readers to reach out with specific questions and interests. We received several intriguing responses, but for today, we will focus on one topic in particular. Titans fan Bennie Guardado proposes several compelling inquiries regarding former LSU prospect Tyrann Mathieu. In our pre-draft articles, we briefly touched on Mathieu in the cornerback edition: https://titansized.com/2013/03/30/tennessee-titans-2013-nfl-draft-top-5-cornerbacks/. But we certainly didn’t address all of your questions, so let’s take a more comprehensive look.

1.   Do you think the Titans have interest in him?

Yes, I think the Titans have interest in Mathieu. Even though many will compare him to Adam “Pacman” Jones, their off-the-field issues are quite different. Mathieu has struggled with substance abuse over the last few years, resulting in a one game suspension in 2011 and eventual dismissal from the LSU football team in 2012. He has since entered a treatment program, expressing contrition for his previous offenses and hoping to repair not only his football career, but also his life.

Pacman was quite another story. He has had several, and I mean several, violent brushes with the law. His various assault charges portray a disturbed and out of control individual, vastly different than Mathieu. For this reason, I believe the comparisons are unfair, aside from their similar stature and playmaking ability. The Titans relished Pacman’s ability to return punts, and Mathieu has that in spades. He will also be on a short leash wherever he is drafted, so he should be on his best behavior. His versatility to play safety or nickel corner will also make him more attractive, and I definitely believe the Titans will keep an eye on him come draft day.

2.   If so, in what round do you think the Titans look to draft him?

If the Titans do in fact have significant interest in Mathieu, then I would bet they’re targeting him in the 3rd or 4th round. His athleticism and college production could have made him a 1st rounder, but the red flags and lack of ideal size will diminish his draft stock. The Titans could possibly consider him in the 2nd round, but I doubt they would take him with the 40th overall pick.

3.   Will he play at the high level he displayed during his sophomore year?

Feb 26, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Louisiana State defensive back Tyrann Mathieu catches a pass during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Personally, I believe that he will return to his high level of play that he displayed during his sophomore season. In 2011 Mathieu was an absolute beast, as evidenced by his Chuck Bednarik Award, SEC Championship Game MVP, and SEC Defensive Player of the Year Award. He was also a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, as a sophomore no less. He’s a tenacious tackler with a nose for the football, and he should excel as a nickel corner at the NFL level.

Mathieu advertised his athleticism and ball-hawking ability at the combine. He ran a decent 4.50 40-yard dash, but more importantly, he looked incredibly fluid and comfortable in the position drills. He constantly attacks the ball at the highest point, and he demonstrated soft hands while maneuvering through the drills with ease. He has excellent, not good, change of direction, making him an ideal fit to play inside in a nickel package. Skeptics point out his lack of strength (4 reps on the bench press), but he has all the functional strength and leverage to take down much bigger ball carriers.

4.   Has he really changed, and will he stay out of trouble in the NFL?

January 6, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; LSU Tigers cornerback Tyrann Mathieu (7) talks during media day for the 2012 BCS National Championship game to be played on January 9, 2012 against the Alabama Crimson Tide at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

This is a question that only Tyrann can answer, but I do believe that everyone deserves a 2nd chance. He made some mistakes as a young man (he’s only 20 years old!), but he appears to be heading in the right direction. On August 17, 2012 he entered a drug rehabilitation program in Houston, and he seemed truly remorseful during his interviews at the NFL Combine. Deion Sanders asked him point blank, “When was the last time you smoked (marijuana)?” Mathieu promptly responded, “October 25, the day I was arrested.”

The NFL does a good job of surrounding young men with positive role models, and perhaps that was the missing ingredient. Mathieu has distanced himself from the popular nickname “Honey Badger,” claiming that it created a split personality of sorts. He got caught up in the glamour and glitz of being a high profile athlete on a campus that worships football, and he has paid dearly for his mistakes. I wouldn’t bet against Mathieu, because now he has everything to prove and everything to lose.

5.   What is the highest round he could possibly be drafted, and to whom?

The 2nd round is probably the highest Mathieu could be drafted. I think every NFL team recognizes the concerns that come with drafting him, creating a consensus valuation on draft day. I can see a team like the Patriots making the reach to nab him in the 2nd, as they’ve never been shy to gamble on a talented player with red flags. I think that would be an ideal fit for Mathieu because Belichick doesn’t take any flack from any player. Two more teams that could be a possible fit are the Bengals and Jets, both of which have taken chances on troubled players in the past. Oh, and never count out the Raiders to do something crazy.

6.   What is the lowest round he could fall to?

I don’t see Mathieu lasting past the 4th round. He presents too much upside and playmaking ability to fall past that. During the draft, there are instances called “runs” when several teams start drafting players of the same position. If a run on cornerbacks happens late in the 1st or sometime in the 2nd round, it will move Mathieu up the board. He made a few stupid mistakes as a college student, but who hasn’t?

Conclusion: Mathieu continues to intrigue during this prolonged and extensive draft process. All his dirty laundry has been aired, and he appears to be sincerely remorseful for how he finished his career at LSU. In my previous article about the top-5 cornerbacks, I doubted the Titans as a possible suitor. However, if the price is right, I think most NFL teams would take a chance on the talented Tyrann. I hope this helps to shed some light on your questions Bennie, and thanks for being such a dedicated and loyal Titans fan!

You can follow me on Twitter @dfleming22

David Fleming