Many teams passed on former LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu in this year’s draft because of off-the-field red flags during his time in college. Mathieu slipped to the third round, where he was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals.
While Mathieu played mostly cornerback at LSU, the 5’9″, 175-pounder has been moved to safety, where his ball-hawking style and closing speed is more useful. Despite being heavily undersized for the position, Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer has been extremely impressed with how the “Honey Badger” is taking his game from the college level to the pros. Palmer even threw a pretty lofty comparison out there for Mathieu, according to Peter King of Sports Illustrated.
“He reminds of Troy Polamalu with his closing speed,” said Palmer. “He might not be the fastest guy out there, but he can change directions and get to the ball really fast, like Troy.”
King also had some high praise of his own for the Arizona rookie.
When I watched the other day, Mathieu, working with the first unit for part of the practice, made a diving pass break-up of a Palmer throw and was buzzing around plays all through the workout. The first thing you notice about Mathieu is his size — at 5-9, he’s probably three inches shy of what’s optimal for the position — and the second is his instinct. He’s clearly at home on the practice field, pointing out coverages pre-snap and changing direction smoothly.
Everything should be taken with a grain of salt since it is just OTA’s after all, but for a player who had as much trouble in college as Mathieu did, a good first impression will surely go a long way come September.
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[H/T Pro Football Talk]