All eyes will be on Tyrann Mathieu going into the NFL Draft Scouting Combine this weekend and early next week in Indianapolis. After a rash of marijuana run-ins with school officials and police; Mathieu was kicked off the LSU football team and expelled from school. Mathieu will now face a large up-hill battle to prove to teams that he has grown and moved on from his troubled past and can make an impact at the NFL level, despite having not played football competitively for over a year.
Mathieu is an impressive athlete, there’s no question about that. He’s been working out with Patrick Peterson Sr. and his son, Arizona Cardinals’ cornerback Patrick Peterson to prepare for the combine and stay in football shape. Mathieu is likely to do just fine with the skills tests. He probably won’t overly impress anyone, but his stellar awareness and football smarts can’t really be tested in a skills test.
The biggest hurdle for Mathieu at the combine won’t be the physical tests though; it will be the character and mental ones. Mathieu will be extensively interviewed by teams that are intrigued by his play on the field and in need of help in the secondary. He will have to be absolutely 100-percent open and honest about everything in his past and show teams that he has been able to overcome his apparent marijuana addiction (he visited rehab last year for it) and move on successfully from it. If teams even get the slightest hint that he isn’t being completely honest or forthcoming, or they don’t think he has overcome his problems; he will plummet on draft boards regardless of his talent, and could go undrafted.
Besides Manti Te’o, Mathieu has the most to prove of any player at the Combine. Mathieu’s physical tools, smarts and abilities on the football field alone make him valued somewhere between the second and fourth round. A strong skills showing at the combine could boost this number, but the one (and most important) deciding factor in his draft value will be his performance in interviews and mental tests.