The Arizona Cardinals Took A Huge Gamble On Ex-LSU Outcast Tyrann Mathieu, And It Worked Out Perfectly

Drafting Tyrann Mathieu 69th overall in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft was considered a huge gamble by many NFL teams.

Mathieu was kicked off the LSU football team in 2012 for reportedly failing at least 10 drug tests. After the team booted him, he was arrested for marijuana possession.

At the NFL combine in February, commentators criticised his small stature and his poor performance on the bench press — saying it showed a lack of work ethic.

In the eyes of many NFL teams, he was a little guy who wasn’t good at lifting weights and smoked a lot of weed. A huge risk, in other words.

Now, halfway through his rookie year, he’s unquestionably the steal of the draft.

He was named the NFC Defensive Rookie of the Month in October.

The advanced stats website Pro Football Focus currently has him as the 9th-best rookie in the league. ESPN’s Mel Kiper has him in the top 10 as well.

This week he was formally promoted to starting free safety, even though he actually started six of eight games this year as a nominal “back up.”

He has also made some spectacular individual players — which comes as no surprise to anyone who watched him at LSU in 2011 — like this one where he chased down Rams tight end Jared Cook from 10 yards away (via Bleacher Report):

Mathieu’s impact has elevated the entire Cardinals defence. According to Football Outsiders, Arizona has the No. 1-ranked defence in the league, and the third-best passing defence.

There’s over a dozen examples of NFL players who had successful careers after plummeting in the NFL Draft because they got busted for smoking weed. Mathieu should be a cautionary tale for any team that refuses to draft a guy because of these type of relatively harmless off-field issues.

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