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Tyrann Mathieu's not cornering the market

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Cheers and Jeers,Sports,NFL,College,John Keim

His nickname gained attention, but it's his play that gained him the most notice. Tyrann Mathieu, aka the Honey Badger, made big plays -- as a cornerback and as a returner. He was small. He was quick. He was a Heisman Trophy finalist.

He gained the wrong sort of attention this past season. LSU kicked him off the team after multiple positive drug tests, and in October he was arrested for possession of marijuana. And it's partly why Mathieu's draft stock is highly questionable.

But the debate isn't just about his off-field issues -- and those could be quite major. It's also about his performance.

Mathieu (who wants to leave his nickname behind) made huge plays for LSU in his two seasons, creating 14 turnovers and a school-record 11 forced fumbles -- four better than the previous mark. As a sophomore he returned two punts for touchdowns as well as two fumbles for scores.

But there's the drug issue. And the fact that he's shorter than 5-foot-9 and plays more like a safety in a corner's body. He's not considered a good cover corner, and even without the off-field woes he would be a second-round pick at best.

"Mathieu is a really interesting wild card this weekend [at the scouting combine]," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. "My gut tells me he's a better player than an athlete. He's small and doesn't run well, but teams will look at him as a nickel back and a kick returner. I don't think he'll run better than a 4.5 or 4.55 [at the combine]. If he does, that will help him. Most teams that I've talked to have him more in the fourth round. "

Yes, the Redskins could use more help at corner; Mathieu could help them in the slot. But they should not waste a high pick on a player many don't view as a potential starter.

"If he gets focused and gets everything together, then you're looking at a guy who can help a team whether in the secondary or on special teams," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said. "If you get him in the fourth or fifth round and things don't work out, it doesn't cost a lot."

- John Keim

jkeim@washingtonexaminer.com

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