Tyrann Mathieu, the highly talented LSU defensive back who was a Heisman Trophy finalist last year but kicked off the team this year after multiple failed drug tests, has been arrested for marijuana possession in Baton Rouge. Mathieu’s arrest makes it a near certainty that LSU will not let him back on the team next year, meaning he’s likely heading for the 2013 NFL draft.
And that means Mathieu will be one of the most intriguing prospects in next year’s draft. As our own Evan Silva wrote when Mathieu was kicked off the LSU team in August, Mathieu’s ability to change games from the “joker” defensive back position in LSU’s defense was extraordinary. Mathieu forced 11 fumbles, recovered eight fumbles, intercepted four passes recorded six sacks during his two seasons with the Tigers. He was also a tremendous special teams player who returned two punts for touchdowns last year. There’s a reason this guy was a Heisman Trophy finalist.
But there’s also a reason this guy was kicked off the team at LSU, and it’s because he’s a knucklehead at best and someone with a serious drug problem that will never allow him to realize his potential at worst. If he can’t stop getting in trouble now — when he has vowed to clean up his act and said publicly he wants to prove he deserves another shot at playing for LSU — why would any NFL team believe he can stop getting in trouble when he’s a professional?
There are also questions about whether Mathieu is good enough as a pure cover corner to match up with elite NFL receivers, and about whether a player who likes to deliver big hits but weighs just 175 pounds can hold up over the course of a 16-game NFL season. So Mathieu wouldn’t necessarily be a high first-round pick even if he were a choir boy off the field.
Mathieu made so many spectacular plays in two seasons at LSU, however, that some NFL team is bound to become enamored with him. If we’re going to compare him to talented but troubled draft prospects from this year, Mathieu is probably closer to Janoris Jenkins, who went in the second round to the Rams, than to Vontaze Burfict, who went undrafted before signing with the Bengals.
Then again, at the rate Mathieu is getting into off-field trouble, there’s still plenty of time for his draft stock to plummet.