In nature, the Honey Badger is known to be short, yet sturdy and notorious for its tenacity, toughness, and ferocious defensive abilities. The same can easily be said for football's "Honey Badger" Tyrann Mathieu.
At 5'9", 175 lbs, Mathieu is not the prototypical NFL cornerback. He lacks the desired size and length of many top corners in the NFL. What he lacks in measurables he makes up for in instinct and explosiveness. His stature may be small but Mathieu was meant to be a football player, and a damn good one at that.
Tyrann Mathieu's story is very well known. A talent in his freshman year at LSU who had his national breakout showing in the 2011 Cotton Bowl vs Texas A&M. This parlayed into a phenomenal Sophomore year which saw him become a Heisman Trophy finalist. Then, leading into his Junior year, Mathieu was dismissed from LSU's program for violating team conduct rules. A stint in rehab for marijuana and an arrest for possession culminated in an abysmal 2012 for the superstar in waiting. After a year out of football, either redemption or regret awaits Mathieu.
Let's address the "elephant in the room" first, poor judgment and looming temptation. Unlike many Louisiana natives who have been linked to the Saints, Mathieu is a full-fleged New Orleanian. An alumnus of St. Augustine High School (Go Purple Knights!), Mathieu was actually born in New Orleans and all of his ties, positive and negative, are in the Crescent City.
Here lies one of the biggest arguments against the Saints taking a risk on Mathieu. New Orleans is where all of "his boys" are, he'll never be able to resist the temptation he will be surrounded by, not only by his questionable associates, but of the city itself. New Orleans can be unsuitable for anyone with weak resolve and questionable judgement.
What about the other side of this argument though? Who's to say that home is not where Mathieu could find the most support, closer to loved ones and a built-in support system? If a few years in Baton Rouge were far enough to find him getting in over his head, what would a move to Philly or Oakland do? Bad influences and hangers-on will follow wherever he goes, maybe he needs some steady influences and a little bit of home. It's not as if there wouldn't be any negativity to be found in Miami or Manhattan.
Mathieu has to know just how much he has to gain or lose in next few months. Encouragement comes from the good decisions that have been made leading up to the combine and upcoming draft. Decisions like choosing to spend time working out with former LSU teammate, and current All-Pro Patrick Peterson of the Arizona Cardinals.
Peterson, an unbelievable talent and consummate professional, is just the type of person Mathieu needs to advise him on how to conduct himself as a pro athlete. Mathieu is not only reintroducing his talents to the world, he is reinventing his reputation as well. With guidance like that of Peterson's, he may be on his way.
Home may be just the right place for Mathieu, facing demons head on, with the support of loved ones rather than on his own in an unknown town with no support structure. People can't outrun their past, and there may be no better place to complete a reinvention of his reputation and his career. I'm not going to bury a kid for buying into his own hype and giving in to ego. Making bad decisions at 19 and 20 years old sort of goes with the territory and most of us don't have millions around the nation watching.
As for his size, Mathieu plays much bigger than his frame. He is a ballhawk with uncanny instincts that consistently put him in the optimum position to make the big play when it is needed most. This is precisely what the Saints have been lacking on defense. A ballhawk, an instinctual playmaker, what Who Dat Nation wouldn't have given for one of these last season. The opportunity may very well present itself in the late rounds of the draft in the person of Mathieu.
If chosen, Mathieu would not be starting opposite Jabari Greer to start the season, but the argument cannot be made that the Saints don't need help in the secondary anyway. The Saints need an instinctual nickel corner, not just another guy we pray doesn't get burned again and again. A turnover creating machine like Mathieu would be invaluable, and hopefully contagious to the Saints secondary of "no-catching MFers".
Even Rob Ryan may have some interest in the "Honey Badger" after seeing this tweet from Mathieu at the combine on Tuesday:
Sitting next to RobRyan ! He Is a cool and down to earth person!
Oh, I'm sure Ryan just "happened" to stumble upon Mathieu and say, "Oh, pardon me, is this seat taken? My name's Rob, pleasure to make your acquaintance." Mathieu's style of play would be well suited for Ryan's aggressive style. If Rob's defense is going to work it has to be carried out by players that fit the style of play.
Mathieu makes sense for the Saints as a multi-positional threat as well. As bad as the defense was, the Saints special teams unit was equally uninspired. Mathieu could relieve the pressure from Darren Sproles in the return game and provide a threat sorely missing last season.
If available in the fourth round, this pick is a no-brainer. If interest in Mathieu around the league heats up though, should the Saints pull the trigger in the third round? You know what? Yeah, go all in and roll the dice. Fortune favors the bold, and there's nobody bolder than Sean Payton.
Analysts and "experts" dissect these guys down to their conception, and at the end of the day nobody knows how they'll turn out. The risk is worth a third round pick, plain and simple. These draft picks are so dearly coveted, but at the end of the day it's just a roll of the dice. The Saints have made some egregiously bad picks over the years despite all of their best intentions and research. Time to take a chance on impact and instinct over metrics and measureables.
How do you feel about the "Honey Badger", Who Dat Nation? Leave your comments and insight below!