Budda Baker: Comparisons to Tyrann Mathieu are a blessing

May 2, 2017, 12:59 PM | Updated: 3:28 pm

Washington defensive back Budda Baker (32) during the first half of an NCAA college football game a...

Washington defensive back Budda Baker (32) during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Arizona, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

LISTEN: Budda Baker, Arizona Cardinals safety

Of the seven players the Arizona Cardinals added in the 2017 NFL Draft, arguably the most buzz is surrounding Budda Baker.

It makes sense.

The Cardinals made a trade to move up and grab the Washington safety, sending second, fourth and sixth-round picks in the 2017 — as well as a fourth-round choice in the 2018 draft — draft to the Chicago Bears for their second-round pick, No. 36 overall, as well as a seventh-round choice in the 2017 draft.

And if that was not enough, his style of play is such where it will be tough not to notice him. Also, he reminds some of Tyrann Mathieu, as Cardinals GM Steve Keim said not long after making the selection.

Baker is a 5-foot-10, 195-pound safety who played all over the field for Washington; Mathieu, on the other hand, is listed at 5-foot-9 and 186 pounds while filling a similar role for the Cardinals.

For Baker, being likened to the Honey Badger is a good thing.

“It’s definitely a blessing because I believe he’s one of the best safeties, if not the best safety, in the league,” he told Doug and Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station Tuesday morning. “Being able to be versatile, I feel like we need that to play in the NFL.

“Times have changed — it’s not that big, banger type of safety; you’ve got to be able to come down and play man, you’ve got to be able to blitz off the edge and do all different types of stuff.”

Baker said he was used in a variety of spots last season, seeing time at free safety as well as strong safety.

“Throughout the season I played a lot of nickel, just coming down, playing nickel, usually we were playing man on the slot or tight end, blitzing off the edge, all that type of stuff.”

Sounds like Mathieu, right?

While Baker likes the comparison, he made sure to point out that Mathieu is an established veteran and he is a rookie, so he only hopes to become as good a player as his new teammate.

That kind of attitude, at least in-part, made the Cardinals want him.

There was also the production, which is tough to ignore.

In three seasons with Washington, Baker amassed 200 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, five interceptions, 24 passes defensed and three forced fumbles. In 2016 alone, he tallied 70 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, three sacks and two picks.

On a defense that had four players drafted in 2017, he had a way of standing out.

When asked to describe his playing style, Baker used the adjectives “feisty” and “smart,” while adding he “has so much passion for the game, loves everything about the game.”

That includes every aspect of the game — including film study — as Baker’s goal is to perfect his craft and make good on his potential.

If he realizes it, the Cardinals will have themselves quite a player.

Baker said he knew the Cardinals liked him, but thought someone else, like Atlanta, Tennessee or Tampa Bay, were going to grab him.

“Just the way the draft process went down, they just didn’t get me,” he said. “And I’m glad.”

He is also a bit spiteful.

Baker admitted he will always remember the 35 players who were chosen before him, three of which — Malik Hooker, Jamal Adams and Jabrill Peppers — are safeties. While making sure to focus on the present, dropping to the second round has only added to the chip that he has always carried on his shoulder.

“Even since high school and college, I was never the big guy and all that type of stuff,” he said. “Yeah, people talked about me, but my lacks, or they said my lacks are my size and my height, but at the end of the day I’ve just kept working and just trying to prove everybody wrong.”

Arizona Cardinals

DJ Humphries, Arizona Cardinals...

Kevin Zimmerman

PFF: If there’s a strength for 2023 Cardinals, look to the O-line

While there are some questions about the Arizona Cardinals' offensive line, it's a strong position group compared to the rest of the roster.

9 hours ago

DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Arizona Cardinals celebrates with fans after Arizona defeated the Chicag...

Arizona Sports

Bills? Cowboys? ESPN lists best fits for DeAndre Hopkins after Cardinals release

DeAndre Hopkins now hits the market after his release from the Cardinals, and ESPN's Jeremy Fowler picked out the best potential fits. 

1 day ago

Zach Pascal...

Tyler Drake

Zach Pascal ready to bring out best of Cardinals in reunion with Gannon

Cardinals wide receiver Zach Pascal and head coach Jonathan Gannon already have a bond as they embark on Year 1 in the desert.

1 day ago

Budda Baker...

Arizona Sports

Budda Baker expected to be back with Cardinals ‘when it’s time to be there’

Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker broke his offseason silence on Friday, explaining he will return to the team when it's time to be there.

2 days ago

DeAndre Hopkins...

Arizona Sports

Isaiah Simmons, NFL world react to Cardinals’ release of DeAndre Hopkins

The NFL world was left surprised Friday morning with the Cardinals' announced release of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.

2 days ago

Arizona Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins. (Arizona Sports Photo/Jeremy Schnell)...

Tyler Drake

Cardinals’ release of DeAndre Hopkins a product of his contract situation

The announced release of Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins on Friday is a tough look. Or is it?

2 days ago

Budda Baker: Comparisons to Tyrann Mathieu are a blessing