The Detroit Lions could get a huge contribution from an unlikely source in the 2013 season if they choose to draft controversial safety, Tyrann Mathieu out of Louisiana State University. Mathieu, also known as the Honey Badger, blew up after his Heisman finalist season in 2011, where he recorded 76 tackles, 7.5 for a loss, 1.5 sacks, six forced fumbles, two interceptions and four total touchdowns.
Mathieu’s off the field behavior has overshadowed his on field accomplishments. In August of 2012, LSU head coach Les Miles dismissed Mathieu from the program, soon after Mathieu withdrew from the university. There were rumors that the dismissal was as a result of multiple failed drug tests, even though Miles has never confirmed those reports.
In 2013, Mathieu participated in the NFL combine where he posted subpar numbers. This, in correlation with his off-the-field problems, caused his draft stock to take a huge hit. Some experts expecting are predicting his name won’t be called until the third day of the draft.
The Lions should opt to use one of their later round picks on Mathieu for several reasons. Detroit ranked 19th in pass defense, only recorded 11 interceptions, and led the NFL in giving up plays of more than 40 yards. Mathieu is undersized and does not possess elite speed. He likely will not be utilized as an outside cornerback. I propose that he moves to free safety. The Lions can use an instinctive playmaker that proved in college, while playing against top of the line competition, that he can make plays and create turnovers. Mathieu can also be used as a nickelback.
Mathieu was an exceptional return man for LSU in 2011. He had 26 punt returns for 420 yards, with two returned for a touchdown. While Stefan Logan is still on the Lions roster and appears to be the return man for next season, he has not returned a punt or kickoff for a touchdown since 2010. The Lions could make great use of Mathieu’s here, making Logan easily disposable.
All the factors outlined above make Mathieu a high-reward, low-risk player. There is a big upside, with little risk in taking him if indeed he becomes a third-day selection. If the Lions choose to select Mathieu in the upcoming NFL draft, utilized correctly and with some guidance from the leaders in the locker room, the Honey Badger could be a huge contributor in 2013.