Dee Milliner is the cream of the crop when it comes to the 2013 NFL draft's class of cornerbacks.
After a strong showing at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine, former LSU star and Heisman Trophy finalist Tyrann Mathieu has made a statement to NFL teams in need of a CB.
That statement is simple: If you want a player with great ball skills, return ability and the potential to be an All-Pro staple, it's going to be hard to pass on the Honey Badger anytime after about midway through the third round.
After a wild and tumultuous career at LSU that included a national championship loss, a Heisman invite and a slew of off-the-field issues, the 5'9" CB reminded us all of his supreme potential and game-breaking ability during drills at the combine.
He showed that he is on the right track—both with football and with his life—after testing with NFL personnel and on the field for NFL scouts.
Mathieu ran an official 4.5 40-yard dash, showed good movement and fluidity during individual drills and, according to NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal, has the best ball skills of any DB who participated in the combine this year:
Gregg Rosenthal @greggrosenthal
On a positive note: No DB catches the ball more naturally than Mathieu2/26/2013, 3:48:05 PM
Aside from one flip drill and only getting up four reps on the 225-pound bench press exercise, NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah agrees with Rosenthal's sentiments entirely:
Daniel Jeremiah @MoveTheSticks
Just to clarify, I think Mathieu has had a very good workout. Struggled on 1 flip drill. That was the only blemish. Excellent ball skills2/26/2013, 4:09:52 PM
Deion Sanders also agreed, calling the Honey Badger a "baller" and placing him among the players he believes will have a long-lasting impact in the NFL (maybe because Mathieu's return skills remind Prime of Prime).
The consensus is mostly the same after workouts in Indy—Mathieu is going to be a solid pro. If you listen to the Honey Badger himself talk about how good he can be, he's setting his sights on the NFL's best wideout from day one—Detroit Lions WR Calvin Johnson.
Badger said he would stare down Megatron any day of the week (via NFL.com), adding that he would limit the superstar to only five catches while getting two turnovers of his own. Those are high hopes for a player that's been in recovery mode for an entire season, but the combine is a positive step toward making that assertion happen.
However, NFL teams won't overlook the off-the-field issues. They also won't overlook the fact that he doesn't have as much straight-line speed as some of the other candidates to be selected earlier in the draft, and the fact that his size (5'9") doesn't exactly jump off the charts, either.
However, there's no doubt the young man has talent—and that's going to make it hard on teams like New England, Tampa Bay, Washington and the New York Jets, who all need another playmaker in the secondary for next season.
Once names like Milliner, Xavier Rhodes, Johnthan Banks and Marcus Trufant all go off the board in the first two rounds, there aren't exactly a ton of players waiting in the green room who can change a game single-handedly.
If this is the same Honey Badger that shined at LSU, then there's at least one.
That should make things extremely tough on teams in need of CB help. How do you evaluate his skills after a year off? What kind of risk of more drug-related problems is really involved with taking Mathieu in the draft? And what position will he play?
All those are great questions, and fortunately we don't have to answer them. NFL teams do, and there's a good chance Mathieu will once again draw plenty of attention for what he can do on the field.
Hopefully he'll be doing it in the NFL for a long time.