When the Arizona Cardinals drafted DB Tyrann Mathieu in the third-round (No. 69) of this year’s draft, many people, including myself, considered it a draft-day steal. A player that would have easily gone in the first-round had it not been for his off-field incidents, Mathieu was regarded by many as one of the best defensive prospects in this year’s draft. So with so much talent, what exactly did the Cardinals get?
A player who will often be compared to another troubled defensive back, CB Janoris Jenkins (St. Louis Rams). Like Mathieu, Jenkins was also dismissed from his SEC college football team for repeated drug abuse. However, once Jenkins hit the NFL, he quickly matured into a modeled citizen, and he is reaping the benefits. In 2012, Jenkins tied an NFL rookie-record for most interceptions returned for touchdowns (three), while his four total touchdowns led every defensive player (four, including 1 fumble return). And I expect the same from Mathieu.
The player formerly known as the “Honey Badger” seems to always have a knack for the football. Whether he is forcing fumbles or grabbing interceptions, Mathieu’s ability to be a turnover machine is invaluable. His 40-yard dash speed (4.46) and physical nature, allows him to play the game naturally. A defensive back with fluid hips, Mathieu should have no problem, transitioning to the next level.
And playing in a loaded NFC West division that includes the reigning NFC Champs, the San Francisco 49ers, Mathieu’s learning curve will only accelerate, as he is playing against top competition. Look for Mathieu to turn heads his rookie season, as I predict him to have a stat line similar to 12 passes defensed, four interceptions, and 60 tackles.
And in the future, Mathieu will be even better.