The NFL Combine wrapped up on Tuesday, finishing with an exciting performance from the defensive backs. All of the safeties, corners and in-betweens ran the forty, benched and participated in various on-field drills. Dee Milliner and Tyrann Mathieu had particularly productive days.
As for the 49ers -- who are well out of Milliner's range by now -- they might want to consider looking at Mathieu, who picked up some steam on Tuesday. During his time in the NCAA, he became one of the most decorated players at a premier football program.
In 26 games, Mathieu accrued 133 tackles, 4 interceptions and 19 pass deflections. He also forced 11 fumbles and recovered six of them; two for touchdowns. His ability to make plays has earned him a lot of attention, but so has his off-the-field activity.
On NFL Network, Mike Mayock said players like Tyrann Mathieu are the reason the NFL Draft is an art, not a science. Mathieu is a high-ceiling playmaker, but has been labeled with character issues. An organization will take a chance on him, but which team and when is anyone's guess.
40-time: 4.50 sec (4.43 unofficial)
Vertical Jump: 34.0 inch
Broad Jump: 117.0 inch
Shuttle: 4.14 sec
3-cone drill: 6.87 sec
- Possesses above-average instincts
- Has incredible ball skills and athleticism
- A versatile chess piece on the defensive side of the ball
- A valued asset in the return game, bringing sudden quick-cut ability and sub-4.5 speed
- Extremely smooth and consistent tracking the ball
- Great awareness
- Does not shy away from contact, possessing an aggressive tackling prowess
- At, 5'9", 186 pounds, he is undersized and at risk of being muscled by bigger, athletic players at the pro level
- Has inherent character concerns but has gone through the proper channels to mount a legitimate comeback
- From a physical standpoint, he does not fit the prototypical cornerback or safety
Do Your Homework:
Check out Mathieu's 2011 performances versus West Virginia, Florida and Tennessee.
Why He Might Fit the 49ers:
As a defender, Mathieu was a Heisman finalist in the most competitive division in college football. In 26 games, he was a consistent presence for the LSU Tigers, proving to be a highly potent, multifaceted weapon.
Les Miles deployed Mathieu as a nickel corner, safety and return specialist.
Mathieu roamed the field with the sole purpose of making a play on the football, and then doing something with it once he had possession. He is a high-energy player that always seems to be in the middle of the action, which is great for San Francisco's swarming style of defense.
He can plug into the nickel and fill a need, providing talented depth at the cornerback position. He can be a blitzer, cover man and play up in the box in the 49ers 3-4 scheme. But more than anything, he would play a role in creative blitz packages.
Not to mention, with the inevitable departure of Ted Ginn Jr., Mathieu could bring some competition to the return game.
Mathieu on what teams are expecting from him:
They basically said they want me to play on the field, whether it is nickel, outside cornerback, or the return game. I feel like I am an elite prospect. Most people don't feel like that because of my stature but I make those same plays those bigger guys make and I think I am more physical than those guys also. I try to put everything together when I come on the field for game day, try to lead my team.
Why He Might Not Fit the 49ers:
The word around the campfire is that Mathieu's stock has risen since the NFL Combine. There is a chance that an organization - and it only takes one - selects him earlier than expected. If Mathieu necessitates a second- or third-rounder, then forget about it, it's not worth it.
San Francisco has other needs in the draft, which would cause them to forgo a defective player in between rounds 2-4. If Mathieu slips outside the fourth, he should very much be in play for the Niners.
The other reason Mathieu might not fit is because he is a bit of a risk taker. The 49ers are looking to add more technically sound players on the back end, while the LSU corner has a chancy style of play. His aggressiveness going after the football will occasionally cause him to over-pursue, removing him from the play.
This will not be acceptable in Vic Fangio's defense.
What They Are Saying:
-Deion Sanders thinks Mathieu should go in the 2nd or 3rd round
Deion Sanders went down to Florida to work with and interview Tyrann Mathieu. Sanders: I came out convinced he is a leader #NFLCombine— NFL Media PR (@InsideNFLMedia) February 26, 2013
-Tyrann Mathieu addressed the concerns about his height, saying, "They can watch a whole lot of film on me. I make plays. Height has very little to do with it when you're playing the game of football."
Tyrann Mathieu: "If I was to check somebody like Calvin Johnson, he'll make his plays but I'm going to get mine too."— Will Brinson (@willbrinson) February 26, 2013
-49ers secondary coach Ed Donatell had some one-on-one time with Tyrann Mathieu at the NFL Combine
49ers DB coach Ed Donatell was chatting with ex-LSU CB Tyrann Mathieu between drills. Mathieu smiled and gave Donatell pat on his back.— Matt Maiocco (@MaioccoCSN) February 26, 2013
The fact is the 49ers can actually get a lot of value out of Tyrann Mathieu.
He has the potential to be a difference-maker in the NFL, and brings a great deal of versatility. Because of his off-the-field issues, he should fall to the mid-to-late rounds. This would be a great opportunity for the 49ers to get a value pick, while also filling a need.
And in San Francisco's locker room, Mathieu has a legitimate chance to flourish. Since the Niners will have roughly 14 draft picks -- maybe more pending the Alex Smith trade -- they should use one of their selections on Mathieu. Even if they bring him in and it does not work out, missing on a 5th rounder won't be crippling.