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Honey Badger declares for NFL Draft: What are Tyrann Mathieu's prospects?

Tyrann Mathieu seems poised to be the wild card of the 2013 NFL Draft. (Sean Gardner/Reuters)

Next stop in the Honey Badger Express? The NFL Draft.

Former LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu announced Thursday that he will enter the 2013 NFL Draft. The decision came about four months after he was dismissed by the Tigers for failing multiple drug tests.

"I am sorry that I was not able to complete my journey at LSU, but I will always support LSU in any way I can," Mathieu said in a statement. "To my teammates, you are my brothers. You have kept me going. I will do my best to make you all proud of me."

Mathieu entered a drug rehab program following his fallout with the LSU football team, only to be arrested in October for marijuana possession. Now, Mathieu will be one of the more intriguing and contentious prospects in April's draft.

The last game that Mathieu played was the BCS national championship on Jan. 9, 2012, meaning that he'll have gone more than a year prior to the draft without competing. That, plus his off-field red flags, should be more than enough to give teams pause when considering him as a prospect.

Even without all of those issues, however, Mathieu's draft stock may have been uncertain. He won the 2011 Bednarik Award, handed out to college football's best defensive player, and was a Heisman finalist after a sophomore season in which he made huge play after huge play -- Mathieu finished the 2011 campaign with 76 tackles, 11 interceptions, six forced fumbles, two defensive touchdowns and a pair of punt return touchdowns.

During his time with the Tigers, he was unquestionably one of the most electric players in college football. However, even then there were  questions about how Mathieu's game would translate to the NFL.

At 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds, Mathieu lacks the prototypical size of an elite cornerback. Any team that selects him also may have to adjust its defensive playbook -- Mathieu thrived at LSU, in part, because the coaching staff did not hesitate to use him all over the secondary. Mathieu even slid up as a linebacker to rush the quarterback at times.

That versatility could make Mathieu a home-run pick for a team willing to use him in such a way, but it could detract from those seeking a straight-up cover corner.

And as for those other factors ...

Working in Mathieu's favor may be the recent success of other players with so-called "character issues." Though the Rams had to suspend Janoris Jenkins in Week 10 for a violation of team rules, he has put together a decent rookie season, highlighted by a two-pick-6 performance last week. Last year, the Ravens rolled the dice in the first round on Jimmy Smith, despite reports that he had failed multiple drug tests and been arrested for third-degree assault. Thus far, the Ravens have had no issues with Smith, aside from some inconsistent play.

The NFL world also received an introduction to Eagles rookie running back Bryce Brown last Monday. Brown was one of the most highly-touted recruits in the 2009 class, only to leave Tennessee after one season, and then bail on Kansas State as well after a report alleged that ex-Miami booster Nevin Shapiro had provided him with improper benefits.

Rather than try to pick up the pieces of his collegiate career, Brown entered the 2012 draft. He was not invited to the NFL combine, then slid all the way to pick 229, where he was plucked by the Eagles. His 178-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Panthers suddenly made that gamble by Philadelphia look like a brilliant one.

Could the Honey Badger fall into a similarly promising situation? He has four months to prove to NFL teams that he's more than a talented player who's not worth the trouble.
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