If the Giants are going into their draft with a pure “best player available” mentality, it will be interesting to see how many rounds pass by before they take a stab at Tyrann Mathieu. The former LSU cornerback with well-documented off-the-field issues including a long list of failed drug tests in college may be one of the most talented prospects in this year’s pool of players. But due to those red flags, many think he’ll still be available in the middle rounds.
At least one Giants player has spoken out on behalf of Mathieu. That’d be fellow LSU product Corey Webster, who has been trying to steer Mathieu in the right direction for several years.
“He’s like a little brother to me,” Webster said. “You can try, you can try, but you have to keep on. I don’t quit, I don’t stop. My understanding is that he made mistakes but I never give up on a person. Hopefully now he learned his lesson and he can have good people around him to keep him on the straight and narrow.”
If the Giants draft him, Webster will be one of those people. While his play was not up to his usual standards last year and he took a substantial pay cut to remain with the Giants this season, Webster’s good citizenship has never been questioned.
“I think he understands that he’s gotten a couple of opportunities, a couple of chances, and I think he knows that it’s not going to continue to be that way,” Webster said of the NFL. “I feel like he’s made a sincere change to correct the mistakes he’s made in his life and he’s ready to move on … If I’m here I can have him right underneath my wing so I’ll make sure that it’s going the right way.”
Jerry Reese said last week that Mathieu comes with a complex algorithm of talent and potential and risk. “We’ll put all of the pros and cons together and see if he fits anywhere for us,” Reese said.
The Giants haven’t been shy about drafting or signing at-risk players. Ahmad Bradshaw, taken with a seventh-round pick in 2007, had off-field issues. So did Will Hill, the safety from Florida who signed to play for the Giants last year. And even though Mathieu has missed a year of football, the Giants don’t seem to mind that either. Two years ago they took Marvin Austin after he was suspended for his senior season at North Carolina. Took him in the second round in fact. Austin hasn’t quite lived to his potential yet, but his selection shows that the Giants are in a position to take chances when it comes to talent. One of the reasons they can do that is because of veterans like Webster and others who can provide a stable and nurturing environment.
“We just try to make it easier and smoother than we had it,” Webster said. “Giving him the dos and don’ts … always helping them. Having those (veteran) guys around will make it an easier transition from the college level to the NFL level.”
And what, besides that excess baggage, will a team get when it drafts Mathieu?
“I think he brings excitement, I think he brings play-making ability,” Webster said. “He’s a fierce competitor. He wants to win and I think you need that on your team.”
Maybe the Giants do.