The Arizona Cardinals took a risk when they selected Tyrann Mathieu in the third round of the 2013 draft. The LSU cornerback was widely regarded as immensely talented, but a player who could be held back by his poor decision-making -- something which got him kicked off the Tigers before the 2012 season. Now he's proving that he's matured, and the results are startling. One scout is already calling him "pound-for-pound, the best player on the field."
Mathieu had clauses built into his rookie contract to protect the Cardinals in case of future transgression, but Ron Wolfley of Arizona Sports has seen a change in the rookie, calling his maturation "nothing short of stunning." The cornerback is turning heads through his ability to learn three different positions in Arizona's defense, excelling while playing corner, nickel corner and safety in the dime formation.
His play on the field shouldn't be a surprise. After all, Mathieu was named 2011 SEC defensive player of the year and won the Chuck Bednarik Award the same season. He finished that year with an impressive 76 tackles (7.5 for a loss), as well as two interceptions and 11 passes defended. However, he never managed to extend on that stellar season. He was forced to leave the program due to a violation of team rules, stemming from a number of drug-related charges that caused Mathieu to enroll in a drug rehabilitation program rather than seek out another school.
The 2013 offseason has been filled with questions regarding whether teams should take risks on questionable players, but Mathieu is proof that hasty judgment isn't always apropos. He's making waves in training camp, and could wind up being the biggest steal in the Cardinals' draft class, if he can continue to stay focused on football and doing what he did at LSU -- make plays.