During his pre-combine workouts with Cardinals' cornerback (and former LSU teammate) Patrick Peterson, Mathieu reportedly ran a 4.47 forty-yard dash. Speed was one of the concerns scouts had with Mathieu, but if he can run that time at the combine, he should put those concerns to rest. Mathieu's 4.47 time was faster than cornerbacks Morris Claiborne and Dre Kirkpatrick, both of whom were first-round picks in the 2012 draft. Mathieu is also only .01 second behind Janoris Jenkins, who was selected in the second round due to similar marijuana-related issues.
There were plenty of concerns regarding whether or not Mathieu would be in shape after sitting out the 2012 season at LSU, but teams should have nothing to worry about. Peterson is reportedly working him hard and getting him prepared. A 5th overall pick himself, Peterson is probably a good trainer to have for pre-combine workouts.
"Patrick goes at him hard," Peterson's father, Patrick Peterson Sr., told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "He'll push him on the ground or whatever he's got to do to get Tyrann prepared.
"He's going to be good. He's going in strong. He's looking like Tyrann. He's staying away from the off-field stuff and he's focused. He looks like he means business, very locked in. He knows he can't get another strike. He's conformed to our rules, working out and trying to get better."
Mathieu has been living with Peterson's family in Florida since leaving LSU, in case you were wondering what Peterson Sr. meant by "our rules."
As I alluded to before, Mathieu isn't simply proving he's a better player, he's proving that he's a better person. He made himself available to NFL teams for interviews during Senior Bowl week, which he voluntarily attended. He has been taking regular drug tests from a certified clinic so he can prove that he's clean before the draft. He's even attempted to get rid of his "Honey Badger" nickname from his playing days at LSU.
If I were an NFL general manager, I wouldn't let Mathieu's off-field past outweigh his on-field ability. What people forget is that college athletes are also college students. They should obviously be aware that they need to be careful because they're in the spotlight, but all college kids make mistakes. If you never made a mistake in college, you were doing it wrong. Just because a person makes a mistake when they're 20 years old does not mean it's going to be an issue for the rest of his career.
Let's take a look at some recent players whose draft stock dropped due to off-field concerns:
LeGarrette Blount's stock plummeted after a post-game fight in college. The undrafted rookie ran for over a thousand yards in his first year, and hasn't had an off-field incident in his three years as a pro.
The aforementioned Janoris Jenkins was kicked out of the University of Florida for recurring issues with marijuana - pretty much the same thing that Mathieu was kicked off the LSU football team for. Jenkins started 14 games as a rookie in 2012 and led the league with four defensive touchdowns.
It sounds to me like Mathieu finally understands how to be mature and professional. He's taken all the right steps so far in the pre-draft process. He's already addressed one of the scouts' concerns (speed), though the combine will address some of the others (height and weight).
I would be all over Mathieu in the draft if he starts to drop because of the off-field concerns, and I think that he could be one of the steals of the draft if his stock drops far enough. Keep in mind, he was a Heisman Trophy finalist and won the Chuck Bednarik Award (best defensive player in college football). Several NFL personnel members had called him a first-round talent prior to his dismissal from LSU.
Here's a reminder of what Mathieu used to do during his days as the Honey Badger: