By now, it’s obvious the Arizona Cardinals got themselves a steal when they selected Tyrann Mathieu in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
The defensive back from LSU slid that far because of a series of off-the-field issues that ultimately led to him being kicked off his college team. It was enough for NFL teams to shy away from a former Heisman Trophy candidate who had earned a reputation for being a playmaker on the field.
The Cardinals took a chance on him with the 69th pick in the draft, and were rewarded rather handsomely.
Mathieu’s rookie season was cut short by a late-season knee injury, but in 13 games he tallied 68 tackles along with 2 interceptions, 1 sack and 1 forced fumble. The “Honey Badger” proved to be an invaluable member of the team’s sixth-ranked defense, and has people believing his future is very, very bright.
And if the draft could be done over again, SI.com’s Don Banks believes he’d be a first-round pick, going 14th to the Carolina Panthers.
Mathieu went down with a torn ACL and LCL in Week 14, otherwise he’d be even higher in our re-drafted first round. The Cardinals used their third-round pick perfectly, shifting him between slot cornerback and free safety, with great results. With Carolina just out of the money in terms of the draft’s three best defensive tackles, adding a playmaking force to its sometimes suspect secondary would be a valuable consolation prize. And can you imagine the practice-field battles between Steve Smith and Mathieu?
Lucky for the Cardinals, Mathieu was available to them in the third round, and smartly by the Cardinals, they drafted him.