Over the weekend I experienced something that I’m still having a hard time wrapping my mind around. Hardcore NFL scouts and coaches are raving about Tyrann Mathieu, the Cardinals’ third-round pick out of LSU. Mathieu has always been an excellent football player, but his adjustment — mentally — to the National Football League has been nothing short of stunning.
The most difficult aspect of making the transition from college to the NFL is found between the ears. The game is so much more complicated, complex and volatile; schemes are multifaceted and evolving.
And Tyrann Mathieu has learned three different positions for three personnel packages! He has played corner, nickel corner and safety in base, nickel and dime personnel packages. He knows it and is making plays.
For a former player like myself, understanding how complex the game is at this level, I could not be any more impressed.
But I’m not the only one impressed.
One scout told me that Tyrann Mathieu was, “pound-for-pound, the best player on the field.” And while conversing with an offensive assistant coach he told me that he believed, “No. 32 was going to change the team.”
My jaw is still hanging as I write this. These are things you don’t hear from grizzled, hardcore professionals. And yet all of it won’t matter unless Tyrann understands the burden he carries. It will all be for naught if he doesn’t accept the responsibility of keeping himself on the straight and narrow.
Risk/reward is something every GM must take into account when bringing a player into the organization. And Mathieu was a risk; but as it stands right now, Steve Keim should buy a lottery ticket.