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Arians: Tyrann Mathieu my 'happiest draft choice'

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Coach Bruce Arians and the Cardinals have made their share of positive picks in the later rounds of the NFL Draft.

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Game-changing wideout John Brown was grabbed in the third, while running back Andre Ellington was a sixth-rounder who blossomed into a starter. Third-rounder David Johnson is another example of finding talent beyond Round 2, but Arians didn't need much time to name his "happiest" pick of all: Tyrann Mathieu.

"He's as humble, as good a kid, probably as much swagger about him as anybody I've ever coached," Arians told Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times. "Probably the happiest draft choice I've ever made. I get the most pleasure out of him, seeing him get his second chance and what he's done with it."

Picked apart by draft experts as too small to play safety in the NFL and toting far too much off-the-field baggage, the 5-foot-9, 186-pound Mathieu sat and waited until Arizona used a third-round pick on him in 2013. That season, Arians and the Cardinals employed Mathieu creatively from the start. "Honey Badger" played all over the field and emerged as a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate before a torn ACL deep-sixed his first taste of NFL action.

Mathieu returned to play in 13 games last season, but a weighty knee brace and a broken thumb left Arians to argue that Honey Badger "was playing with one arm and one leg" and "playing not to lose."

Today, Mathieu rolls into September as our No. 5 "Making the Leap" candidate because (a) he's fully healthy again and (b) few players were more exciting to watch two seasons ago.

"He's that kid that never wrapped his mind around being smaller than everybody else," Cardinals linebacker Kevin Minter told Farmer. "He thinks he can do anything."

As for Arians, he's never been one to wade into the murky pools of group-think, deciding on players for himself and -- along with general manager Steve Keim -- helping the Cardinals to some of their most productive drafts in years.

"I rely on my instincts a lot," Arians said. "Just believing what you see on film and what you study."

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