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NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: LSU CB Tyrann Mathieu

03.27.13 at 12:18 pm ET
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WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that might be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2013 NFL draft. Here is one is a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

Tyrann Mathieu (AP)

Tyrann Mathieu showed good speed at the scouting combine, running a 4.50 40. (AP)

TYRANN MATHIEU

Position: Cornerback

School: LSU

Height: 5-foot-9

Weight: 186 pounds

Achievements: 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist, 2011 Bednarik Trophy winner, 2011 Walter Camp Award finalist, 2011 All-America first team at cornerback and return specialist, 2010 FWAA Freshman All-America first team

What he brings: Oh, Tyrann, what are we going to do with you?

Here’s the thing about the former Heisman candidate from LSU: There’s no doubt he was a dominant college player. But, even before he was kicked off the team for repeated drug offenses, there were doubts about whether his skill set would translate to the next level.

The football player formerly known as “Honey Badger” is a great return man, is an excellent blitzer out of the secondary, hits like a much bigger defender and is an overall ball-hawk. However, he also is undersized, lacks elite top-end speed and doesn’t have as much experience matching up with tall, elite receivers on the outside. Combining that with the fact that he didn’t play football this past season, Mathieu’s draft stock certainly has its blemishes. That being said, he’s still an intriguing prospect.

Mathieu is not going to be a shutdown corner. That’s just not his game. Instead, he’s drawn comparisons to the Vikings’ undersized Antoine Winfield for his ability to play beyond his limited height. Also, with his ability to blitz, force fumbles and play all across the field, Mathieu’s upside could be similar to how Charles Woodson has looked at the end of his career, albeit with lesser outside cover skills. While Mathieu should, at the very least, manage within the right defensive scheme, he’s not going to be the guy teams leave out on an island with the opponent’s top receiving threat.

Where the Patriots could get him: Round 3 or 4

Notes: The live performance that NFL scouts have seen from Mathieu in the last year was his performance at the NFL scouting combine. So, unlike most other prospects, his performance there bears a whole lot of weight.

First off, Mathieu’s 4.50 40 time helped dispel the idea that he doesn’t have the top-end speed to play at the NFL level. Second, he looked great in most of his on-field drills, according to scouts that spoke to the media. Third, Mathieu showed professionalism and remorse in his interactions with the media, passed a surprise 4 a.m. drug screening and apparently did well in interviews. That being said, he only tallied four reps on the bench press. While that isn’t good — at all — it isn’t a death sentence for his stock.

Throughout the process, the former LSU star has impressed a number of scouts and media members, with NFL Network’s Deion Sanders leading the bandwagon, calling him a “baller” after extended talks with him.

Mathieu’s status is somewhat comparable to what Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins went through during the pre-draft process last year en route to a stellar rookie season. Now, Jenkins was more of a prototypical No. 1 corner while Mathieu is projected to do a lot of work in the slot and closer to the box. Still, that won’t stop his confidence, as evidenced by his statement about whether or not he could play in that role.

“If I was to check somebody like Calvin Johnson, he’ll make his plays, but I’m going to get mine, too,” Mathieu said at the combine. “He’ll catch his five balls, but I’ll get my two turnovers, so we’ll be even.”

Related articles: USA Today: Tyrann Mathieu to sit out 2012 season and go through drug rehab

New York Times: Ex-Heisman Finalist Hoping for Fresh Start

New Orleans Times-Picayune: Former LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu working with Patrick Peterson prior to draft

CBS Sports: NFL Combine: Tyrann Mathieu helps stock in workouts

Video: Here’s a playlist of highlights for Mathieu’s 2011 season, starting with his game against Arkansas.

Read More: 2013 NFL draft, 2013 Potential Patriots, Tyrann Mathieu,
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