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Tyrann Mathieu, DB, 3rd round (69th overall)
The most controversial pick of Arizona's draft, Mathieu did not take long to emerge as an impact player for the Cardinals. His rookie season ended with a torn ACL, though, and a middling 2014 while he got back to health paved the way for a monster 2015. Unfortunately, that season also ended early with a knee injury, and though he returned for Week 1 of 2016, Mathieu was not the same player before a shoulder injury sent him to injured reserve once again.
Career stats: 227 tackles (205 solo), 3 sacks, 9 interceptions (1 TD), 3 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 1 special teams tackle
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NFL Network analyst: Tyrann Mathieu in DPOY conversation

A healthy Tyrann Mathieu is an outstanding football player.

If you didn’t know that before, you’re learning it now.

Mathieu, in his third NFL season, is having a career year with 70 total tackles, one sack, four interceptions and 14 passes defensed. In Sunday’s 19-13 win over the San Francisco 49ers, the former third-round pick out of LSU notched a career-best 13 tackles to go along with an interception, two passes defensed and one tackle for loss.

Asked if he expected this kind of performance from Mathieu, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said, “Yeah. He could play better, you know?”

Not really.

Mathieu has established himself as not only one of the best players on the Cardinals, but as one of the best defensive players in the entire NFL. He fills up a box score while playing a variety of roles for his team, able to rush the passer, play against the run, man a safety spot or drop into coverage as a cornerback.

The 5-foot-9, 186-pound player’s versatility makes him important to Arizona’s defense, and his production has him in the conversation for some end-of-season awards.

In fact, NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger said Mathieu is one of the favorites.

“I think he’s the most exciting defensive player in football right now,” he said. “I would say right now through 12 weeks that if you’re going to have a conversation for the Defensive Player of the Year, you have got to put Tyrann Mathieu in the conversation.”

Baldinger noted how Mathieu leads the Cardinals in tackles, tackles for loss and interceptions, noting it was all on display in the win over San Francisco.

“If he was in the rodeo, you’d want him to be the calf roper because he’s taking the calf down,” he said.

OK then.

Mathieu is aware of the praise, but says he can always improve and is not worried about that kind of stuff right now. However, that kind of recognition is something he strives for.

“Really, you sit and you just kind of leave it there,” he said of those goals. “I think I’ve said it earlier in the season, the things I want to accomplish, and I just kind of left it there and just focused on the season.

“I don’t try to let it overwhelm me. I’ve been there before, at LSU, and at times it can get overwhelming. You’re thinking about things in the future when really you should be focusing on today. My mind set really is to just handle what’s in front of me and everything in the future. If I do what I do what I have to do today, hopefully it will handle itself.”

 

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