In 2011 Tyrann Mathieu was the recipient of the Chuck Bednarick Award, for defensive player of the year, leading LSU with 70 tackles and 6 forced fumbles. That same season Tyrann joined Andrew Luck, Trent Richardson, and RG111 as a Heisman Trophy Finalist. The first defensive back since Charles Woodson (Michigan) to be named a finalist. Tyrann displayed dynamic playmaking ability while at LSU not only as an excellent tackler with good ball skills, but also in the return game, averaging over 16 yards per punt return.
Unlike Luck, RGIII, and Richardson whom all were selected with the first 3 picks of the 2012 NFL draft, Mathieu sat out of football last season and even left LSU altogether due to off the field issues, involving the use of marijuana. With zero tolerance still in place in college football and the NFL it will be interesting to see how far Mathieu will fall in the draft.
Physically Mathieu has shown the skills to be a dynamic defensive back when on the field, but many NFL teams question his mental state of mind and how he will adapt to the game, not having played since 2011. Tyrann performed well at the NFL combine, running a 4.5 40, leaping 34" vertically, displaying good ball skills, and great agility during drills. With that said Tyrann Mathieu is not just a practice superstar, we are talking about a former All-American and Heisman finalist, whom many had predicted to be an early first round pick had he not been busted.
With the 49ers possessing 13 picks, 8 of which are in the first 5 rounds, and with a coach and GM known to take risks on "character" players if the skill set is present, Mathieu may actually be a steal if his stock drops into the 3rd or 4th round. With a cluster of picks and an obvious need in the defensive backfield, a dynamic talent like Mathieu could be an option if he is around when the Niners select. Not only will Mathieu provide depth behind Carlos Rogers and Terrell Brown, he will be an asset in the return game as well, and with the departed Ted Ginn, it makes a lot of sense.
Granted the more glaring need is at free safety, and believe me I would not burn a first rounder on Tyrann either, but if he falls do not be surprised if Baalke and Harbaugh take another risk this coming draft day. If the Niners were willing to give an aging Randy Moss, who is a known pot smoker, a chance at 35 years old, I see no reason not to nab the former LSU standout who can contribute immediately with his athleticism, tackling ability, and return skills. Like Moss, Mathieu is being judged by his off the field issues and character. Despite the on going saga, Randy Moss turned out to be one of the greatest deep threats ever. So we will see what becomes of Tyrann Mathieu, and if Baalke and Harbaugh take a drag or pass on the sticky "Honey Badger."