INDIANAPOLIS — The Tyrann Mathieu comparison to a college prospect gets thrown out there each NFL draft cycle, and while there may never truly be another Honey Badger, there is one player in this 2020 class who is cut from the same cloth: Louisiana Tech’s Amik Robertson.
At just 5-foot-8, 185 pounds, Robertson’s size will likely be a sticking point for a lot of teams, but don’t tell that to him. Instead, he will tell you to look at his film, where you will find 14 interceptions, 34 pass deflections, four sacks and three touchdowns in three years.
Robertson was an undersized playmaker at cornerback for most of his career and said the Honey Badger is who he looked up to and modeled his game after, as he was the blueprint for nickel defenders with his profile.
“In order to really be compared to Tyrann Mathieu, I’d have to do it at the next level, but he was also really criticized for his size coming out,” Robertson said Friday at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine. “The reason why I look up to Tyrann Mathieu is because of the mindset he approaches the game with. It’s that passion — proving people wrong and why they should’ve picked him up earlier.”
Robertson’s coverage production speaks for itself, and if teams pass on him solely because of his size, they will be sorry.
“I play a way that makes people look at me different,” he said. “I play bigger than I really am, and that’s something my coach harped on a lot. You can’t change your size, so you have to do something to separate yourself.”
It’s not just the man coverage and zone instincts Robertson tries to mimic from Mathieu’s game, it’s also his physicality in run support. He emphasized how toughness and play strength are just as important as quickness in the slot because playing nickel means you’re often a primary run defender or blitzing threat.
It was a bit of a transition from Robertson to move inside from the boundary role after his freshman year, especially after he realized that defending from the slot required more preparation and a smaller margin for error in man coverage with so much space to maneuver through.
Now, Robertson embraces it and believes he’s the best nickel defender in this year’s class.
“Playing nickel is all about knowing where your help is at, tendencies, and splits for guarding that inside receiver,” he said. “Playing that for two years and being able to break it down, I feel really comfortable playing inside. They’ve got a two-way go, so leverage is big too. It’s all of those little things I look at to slow the game down and make plays.”
He said that “dog mentality” to make things happen in all facets of the game is what sets him apart from other defenders in this draft whether it’s inside in the slot, in the box as a strong safety or lined up on the outside.
“At the end of the day, I’m a playmaker,” Robertson said. “I don’t shy away from tackling. I don’t shy away from covering anybody, and I definitely don’t shy away from making plays. If I’m out there on that field, wherever they put me, that’s where I’ll make plays at.”
Robertson will be unable to participate in any of the drills Sunday at the combine because of a groin injury he suffered in training. His talent will instead be on full display for scouts at his Pro Day.
While Robertson admits he has a long way to go before being mentioned in the same conversation as Mathieu, he said that is the blueprint he’s following — both with his playmaking production in coverage and run support but the same kind of mental toughness. After studying Robertson’s tape and seeing the same kind of traits Mathieu showed coming out of LSU, I’m not betting against him getting to that level.