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Best Player Available at #51: Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU

Once considered to be a first round talent, off the field troubles have made some teams leery of this ballhawking cornerback. With their first pick of the 2013 draft being in the second round, the Redskins should take a gamble.

Jared Wickerham

It is no secret that the Redskins are looking for secondary help. Their top three cornerbacks going into 2013 (DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson, E.J. Biggers) all have expiring contracts after the season. Their safety play was suspect at best in 2012, so going in that direction would be a good move at #51 as well. All the experts seem to agree that it would be sensible for the Redskins to select a defensive back with this pick. However, their best bet could be a somewhat diminutive corner who did not even play college football last season, but who potentially could have a meteoric sized impact.

Tyrann Mathieu certainly has his negatives, and more baggage than my wife on a two week trip to Europe. There was his suspension for the entire 2012 college season, thanks to his arrest in October for marijuana possession and reports that he failed 10 or more drug tests. There were the average numbers put up at the Combine (5’9 and 186 lbs., 4.50 40 yd dash). There were also times at LSU where his size put him in less than advantageous situations that you would think would only be more exposed in the NFL. Plus, he has developed a reputation for having an attitude problem.

That being said, if Tyrann Mathieu is available at #51, the Redskins should run his name up to the draft podium. Here is why:

If he is put in the right situation, the man will be a star in the NFL. I have heard differing strong opinions on the subject from ESPN, the NFL Network, and local sports radio. The bottom line is, he was a serious playmaker in college who made some really stupid mistakes. On the field, he is a fierce competitor, plays bigger than he is and makes receivers fight for every catch. Even after a catch is made against him, his natural instinct is to first go for the strip and then to hit them as hard as possible. There are several highlight films of him laying the wood on running backs, tight ends or anyone he comes across on the field. Like DeAngelo Hall, he seems to have a nose for being around the ball and takes advantage of those situations. He is also dynamic in the return game, finishing with the fourth best punt return average in the country in his last full season with over 15 yards per attempt, and uses his ankle breaking quickness to the fullest extent.

As a true freshman in 2010, Mathieu was given significant playing time and finished with 2 interceptions, 7 passes broken up, 5 forced fumbles and 4.5 sacks. In 2011, he followed that up with 2 interceptions, 9 passes broken up, 6 forced fumbles and 1.5 sacks. That year, he was a Heisman Trophy finalist along with Robert Griffin III and won the Bednarik Award given to the nation’s top defensive player. He showed the ability to lineup outside and in the slot, and did all this playing in the SEC, which is no cake walk. His infamous nickname, the Honey Badger, was earned from his teammates because of his tenacious play.

Having watched him in interviews since his comeback tour began, he has displayed a genuine humility and eagerness to put his transgressions, and even his nickname, behind him to start anew. He passed the drug test at the Combine and, like many college kids who have made mistakes, he is now showing a real desire to move on from his discrepancies of the past. Those against the move would say a player with Mathieu’s history and a team that has had seven players suspended for drug use in the last two years would be a bad match. However, of the seven players, only two of them, Fred Davis and Trent Williams, were suspended for testing positive for marijuana. The other five tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. Davis and Williams stayed clean all of last year and the hope is there will be no regression. This Redskins team has some good strong leaders. They would be wise to draft the former Tiger and immediately put his locker in between Griffin’s and London Fletcher’s. If he is cultivated and shown how to be a true professional, Mathieu has the mental and physical tools to be a special player for years to come.

Tyrann Mathieu For Heisman 2011 Finalist Video YouTube (via fletcher burton)