I've had this subject on the back burner for ages now, but it has to be posted at some point: Tyrann Mathieu either visited the Buccaneers, or the Buccaneers visited him for a private workout at a local college campus. According to Walter Football, at least.
The Honey Badger, as he is often called, is famous for three things: big plays for LSU during the 2011 season, getting burnt to a crisp by Alabama in the ensuing BCS National Championship game, and then getting kicked off the team, supposedly for smoking weed a few too many times.
Yes, a good college player got kicked off a quality program for weed. That must have been an epic amount of smoking, because you don't hear that one too often. That wasn't his first warning, as he had been arrested on possession of marijuana before.
I, personally, have two issues with Tyrann Mathieu.
One, I don't think he's nearly as good as he's hyped up to be. Yes, he has a knack for making some big plays in college -- but he's undersized and often struggled on a down-to-down basis in college. Big plays are nice, but preventing them on defense is a whole lot more important. He can get overpowered by tight ends and bigger receiver, as often happened. Some of these issues can be fixed, others can't. He is likely limited to a slot cornerback in the NFL, and I don't know if he can be consistently successful in that role. Not to mention the simple fact that the Bucs already have a group of young, undersized slot cornerbacks.
Mathieu does at times display the instincts necessary to make some special plays. That's where most of his big plays and his national notoriety came from. He also has great top-end speed -- but I have some doubts about his transition from a backpedal to jumping a route. He looked less than explosive doing that and seemed better fitted with some buildup speed. His instincts also had a downside: he got beat by double moves. A lot. That's one reason why I don't see him working at safety, as some have suggested. His size limits his position versatility, too.
There's also the question of scheme fit. He gets beat in man coverage pretty regularly, and would get completely dominated in the NFC South with its tall receivers and tight ends. He's best in zone coverage -- but the Bucs don't like playing much of that.
There is one area where he would be a quality addition, though: punt returner. He was explosive as a punt returner, notching 17.8 yards per return and two touchdowns during the 2011 season. That's an area where the Buccaneers need some help -- but they're not going to give up much for someone they only see as a punt returner.
Now, I'm making him sound like a useless player, and that's not what he is. He has some intriguing attributes -- but I wouldn't draft him much sooner than the fifth round in an already cornerback heavy draft.
The other issue is reliability. If you can't even keep from getting busted for marijuana in college, how are you going to stay on the field in the NFL. Mathieu has supposedly reformed his life, went through rehab and did all the good things -- and he's a young kid, so he's allowed a few indiscretions. But to say that this isn't a concern would be disingenuous. You can't help your team if you're suspended. Just ask Tanard Jackson.
How interested are the Buccaneers, really?
So does this private workout mean the Buccaneers are intensely interested? As with any visit: not really. It just means that they have questions about him that they want answered. Obviously that means they didn't disqualify him as a draft prospect based on his tape, but that's about all you can say.
And it's pretty obvious why they would have questions, given the above issues. Bringing in the Honey Badger for a private workout makes sense if you want to find out whether he can be a safe pick for you. Perhaps he didn't impress the Bucs and he is now off their board -- or perhaps some good answers saw him rise a few notches in their esteem.
So, what do you think of Mathieu? Does he fit the Bucs?