Tyrann Mathieu, an All-American cornerback nicknamed the "Honey Badger" who was kicked off the Louisiana State University football team before this season, will enter the 2013 National Football League draft.
Mathieu, 20, in August was dismissed from the LSU football program three weeks before the start of his junior season by coach Les Miles for violating team rules. Mathieu's father told local media that Mathieu was in a drug-rehabilitation center, and the Southeastern Conference's 2011 defensive player of the year was arrested in October for marijuana possession.
LSU spokesman Michael Bonnette confirmed in an email that Mathieu will enter the draft. Mathieu had remained enrolled at LSU instead of transferring to another school below college football's top division to play.
Mathieu as a sophomore had two interceptions and recovered five fumbles, two of which he returned for touchdowns. He also returned two punts for touchdowns and earned the nickname Honey Badger for his tenacity.
NFL draft analyst Drew Boylhart of the Huddle Report projects Mathieu as a fourth- or fifth-round pick, not because of his off-field issues but because the 5-foot-9 defender's poor coverage skills outweigh his ability as a playmaker.
"His strength right now is as a special-teams player," Boylhart, the author of the book "The Draftnik," said in a telephone interview. "That's where he could come into the league and have an impact. Teams would draft him for that and hope he develops into a starting safety." In the 2012 draft, cornerback Janoris Jenkins fell to the second round - taken 39th by the St. Louis Rams - following a college career in which he was dismissed from the University of Florida for a second drug-related arrest and played his final season at North Alabama. Jenkins, who was regarded as a possible first-round pick, is tied for the Rams' team lead with three interceptions this season and scored twice on interception returns last week.
"Jenkins has far better coverage skills than Mathieu," Boylhart said. "Mathieu might be able to sneak into the third round, but that's going on his ability. It's at the combine and in interviews with teams where he'll have to answer questions about the off-the-field stuff." The draft will be held April 25-27.