Tyrann Mathieu: Is His Size an Issue?
Turn on any LSU game and you’ll see CB Tyann Mathieu flying around making plays. Whether it’s a solid tackle in run support, a forced fumble or a broken up pass attempt, Mathieu is always around the ball. Despite not being draft eligible until 2013 at the earliest, Mathieu is already generating a lot of buzz amongst the draft “expert” community. He’s even drawing some consideration for the Heisman trophy (certainly not a predictor of NFL success, but it shows highly regarded Mathieu has quickly become). But despite Mathieu’s considerable talent and growing resume of accomplishments, there will be a lot of debate around his NFL chances come spring of 2013. The reason? Mathieu is listed as being only 5’9 177 and it wouldn’t be surprising if he were actually a little shorter.
Can a guy that short succeed as an NFL CB? Currently, only the Titans’ Cortland Finnegan and Vikings’ Antoine Winfield are as slight as Mathieu and playing at a high level. Other small CB’s include high draft pick disappointments Tim Jennings (5’8, 186) and Alphonso Smith (5’9, 190), journeyman nickelback Joselio Hanson (5’9, 175) and the Colts’ Jerraud Powers (5’9, 190). That’s not to suggest that small DB’s can’t succeed or aren’t drafted highly. Here are small (<5’10) DB’s drafted highly since the AFL/NFL merger:
Looking at that list, it’s apparent that there have been plenty of small CB success stories. At a quick glance, the bust ratio of small DB’s doesn’t seem to be significantly higher than of bigger DB’s – although the 1st round flops (Canty, Fair, Hill) were all complete disasters and out of the league quickly. Darrell Green is obviously the best of the bunch (and one of the best ever) but Glenn, Odomes, Winfield, Bly, Woolford, Lewis and Pat Thomas were also Pro Bowlers at one point in the career. Other successful small DB’s include the Bills’ Terrence McGee and a trio of guys from the early 1990’s: Ray Buchanan, Frank Minnifield and Kevin Ross. It’s also worth noting that the successful guys have mostly been solid in run support (which Mathieu is) or excellent playmakers (which Mathieu also is).
The big question isn’t whether or not Mathieu will have a chance to succeed in the NFL, but rather where his skills will best be utilized. If he bulks up a bit, he could make an excellent FS in a league bereft of safety talent. But even if he sticks at CB, there is reason to think he could fulfill his increasingly promising potential.