Vikings Draft Targets: Tyrann Mathieu to Replace Antoine Winfield?


Mar 1, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; LSU former football player Tyrann Mathieu watches the New Orleans Hornets play the Detroit Pistons at the New Orleans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Tyrann Mathieu’s football career has been a roller coaster ride to say the least. Could the next turn on that winding path lead him right to the Vikings? It appears there is interest on the Vikings’ side. Mathieu was among the college prospects in Winter Park on Tuesday for the Vikings’ Top 30 draft event. The Vikes appear to be doing their due diligence on Mathieu who has lots of character red flags after being booted off the LSU team for drug issues.

Once upon a time “Honey Badger” seemed destined for super stardom. He became a folk hero at LSU for his big time playmaking and flair and many saw him as a future high first round pick. But then reality set in. Personal problems reared up and he was dismissed from LSU. Mathieu said and did all the right things afterward to calm people’s fears about him but the slide down draft boards was inevitable. By now Mathieu is seen as only a mid-round pick despite his obvious talent.

Had the character issues not become such a big deal, you have to wonder where Mathieu’s draft stock would’ve ended up settling. Was he ever realistically more than a mid-round pick? There are some problems. He’s undersized for one. And he’s not straight-line fast. Clearly this is not a guy you’re going to line up against big outside receivers. He figures as a slot corner exclusively. Of course he adds extra value as a return man. And his playmaking ability is well-known.

Mathieu’s return skills and playmaking may be intriguing to the Vikings. Also, they have an opening at slot corner with Antoine Winfield gone at least for the time being. Could Mathieu step in and fill Winfield’s shoes? He’ll never give you what Winfield gave in run support and leadership, obviously. But his coverage skills are there and he clearly has an instinct for taking the ball away.

So maybe Honey Badger could become Winfield’s immediate replacement. But here’s an even more attractive scenario. The Vikings bring back Antoine for one year and let Mathieu learn the position behind the veteran. Mathieu can step right in as a return man so you’d be getting value out of him even if he was only your fourth or fifth corner for the first season. All due respect to Marcus Sherels, but Mathieu would add a dimension of excitement to the return game that is missing right now. Mathieu would give back some of the home run return ability you lost by trading away Percy Harvin.

Maybe this is how the Vikings are thinking. I don’t know. I do know they chatted with him at Winter Park. Maybe Honey Badger impressed Rick Spieman and the scouts enough to allay their fears about him. Maybe they could take him in the third or fourth round and make Paul Allen very happy.

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