When the Arizona Cardinals selected cornerback Tyrann Mathieu out of LSU with a third-round pick in last week's NFL Draft, many raised an eyebrow.
Mathieu, who finished fifth in the 2011 Heisman Trophy balloting, did not play in 2012 after being kicked off the LSU roster by head coach Les Miles. Mathieu had failed repeated drug tests which led to his dismissal. Following an abbreviated stay in a drug treatment center, Mathieu and three other former LSU players were arrested for possession of marijuana.
Needless to say, there is a good amount of risk in investing a high draft pick on a talented but troubled player like Mathieu.
But Stewart Mandel, who covers college football for Sports Illustrated, knows exactly why the Cardinals took that risk.
"During the draft, when he got picked and they showed the highlights, for me, it was like a trip down memory lane," Mandel told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 620 Friday. "I had forgotten just how exciting a player he was in the 2011 season. LSU went to the national title game and he was one of the central figures of it."
The Cardinals will rely on Mathieu's former LSU teammates Patrick Peterson and Kevin Minter to mentor him and keep him walking a clean path. If they can, Mandel believes Mathieu will have a productive career in the desert.
"I just really hope he's got the right support around him to keep him out of trouble, and if he does, I think he can be a tremendously impactful player -- at the very least on special teams or as a returner and possibly also as a corner or safety," Mandel said.