Oct. 14, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (21) against the Buffalo Bills at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Could the Carolina Panthers Take Tyrann Mathieu in the Second Round?

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Every single draft season, there are a few players who have a lot more “baggage” than the norm. For instance, last year, it was Janoris Jenkins, a talented CB from Alabama. He was kicked off the Crimson Tide, wound up at small North Alabama, and fell into the second round after it was disclosed he had like 25 kids or something that he told nobody about. Actually, it was “only” 3 or 4, but very odd behavior. He was a tough guy to nail down, had the talent to be a top-ten pick, but teams just couldn’t pull the trigger on someone so “outside the box” and with so many off-field issues.

For 2013, the names have changed and so have certain issues, but the concept is the same: Can we take a chance on “this guy?”

Feb 26, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Louisiana State defensive end Tyrann Mathieu catches a pass during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

For instance, there’s the infamous Manti Te’o. He didn’t show great athleticism at the combine, but he’s one of those “WATCH THE $#@$ tape!!” guys. He has instincts and intangibles that are completely off the charts, but questions about the “fake twitter girlfriend” will hound him well into his flegeling NFL career no matter what. Thankfully, the Panthers are very well set at ILB with last year’s DROY, Luke Kuechly, and don’t have to consider Te’o in the first place.

But what about Tyrann Mathieu?

The Panthers signed several very low-cost defensive backs in the offseason, both at safety and at corner. D.J. Moore and Drayton Florence come into town and my personal favorite, Captain Munnerlyn, stayed on with a one-year deal. On the surface, the team has shored up the back end of their defense, but who wouldn’t want a kid with Mathieu’s talent at a discounted rate?

Part of the most recent news is going to be a problem for some. When asked how many drug tests he failed at LSU, he responded “I stopped counting at TEN.”

This is news to we, the fans, but it’s nothing new to the teams who have interviewed him. The question now becomes: Do you believe in the kid or do you think he’s just saying the right things to get a job?

I’ve seen a number of interviews with Mathieu, and I actually believe in the kid. What’s sold me is he’s been brutally honest no matter how personal or intrusive a question may be, and to his credit, he knows he has to answer, and appears to be doing so honestly.

He’s saying “It is what it was, I’m laying everything about it right out on the table, but you have to decide if I’m worthy or not.”

That’s the way to handle it. If he were evasive at all, that would be a major red flag. In that case, the reactions would be “With his past and his current avoidance of the issues with his past…eh, let him be someone else’s problem. I can’t waste a 2nd or 3rd round pick on someone like that.”

He comes across in interviews as surprisingly bright for a guy who was so involved in using marijuana – usage that he HAD to know would be found out and that the consequences could be dire…especially when you fail a dozen or more drug tests. It put forth a “me-first” attitude about him and Les Miles finally had had enough and kicked him off the team at LSU, despite his pre-season Heisman Trophy talk. Yes, he’s that good…almost, anyway.

I think ex-teammate Patrick Peterson has a slight physical edge, in size and speed, but Mathieu isn’t far behind and has his own talents too.

Mathieu looks and sounds like someone who truly has realized his many past mistakes and has take an long step towards growing up. Remember, these are college kids we’re talking about, right? Who out there didn’t do at least one completely stupid thing in college? And without having the knowledge that you’re a star football player who gets special treatment?

There ya go.

I think he’s learned his lesson, but would he be a fit for the Carolina Panthers in the second round?

Even with his apparent “conversion,” my initial response is no – pass on him anyway. He would bring incredible athleticism and versatility, a guy who never was late for a team meeting (before he was kicked off for the drug tests), and did everything on the field one could possibly ask of him. He’s a special-teams guy on top of all of that.

The Panthers now have Ted Ginn, Jr. They have Captain Munnerlyn, and then there’s always Joe “Shall I fumble or shall I not” Adams in an emergency for return duties, so there’s no glaring need there.

The Carolina Panthers have pieces in place that cover the talents that Tyrann Mathieu brings to the table. The need just isn’t there for Gettleman to bring Mathieu in during the second round, and the team has no third round pick. With the new GM’s offseason moves, the defensive backfield is much, much deeper than it was when they let “Gam” (CB Chris Camble) go.

I do think whoever grabs Mathieu will be getting a steal, most likely.

I just don’t think it will be with the Carolina Panthers.

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