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Tyrann Mathieu gaining ground for Pro Bowl, Defensive Rookie of Year

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The third round "risk" is paying dividends for the Cardinals.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Anyone who knew Tyrann Mathieu before he entered the draft almost all said the same thing about him -- a great, hard-working kid who loves football and just makes plays on the field.

Guess what? That's what he is doing in the pros.

Having worked himself into the starting lineup, he is moving up in the Pro Bowl rankings and also is starting to gain momentum as a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate.

According to NFL.com's Chris Wesseling, Mathieu is the top candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Wesseling calls him "a chess piece" for Todd Bowles in the Arizona defense and cited a couple of the great plays he made early in the season.

What's amazing about Mathieu is that he's already one of the NFL's most versatile and well-rounded defensive backs, playing safety in base packages and switching to cornerback in nickel and dime packages. I haven't seen a single cornerback who can match the third-round rookie in run support or blitzing.

That is high praise.

He is also gaining popularity in the Pro Bowl ballots. He initially was not even on the ballot because he was not a starter. Now he is is sixth in voting among safeties. You can get your vote in here if you want.

While Mathieu certainly has had a great year and definitely still can make even more big plays, based on sheer numbers, I still have a hard time seeing anyone other than Kiko Alonso as the top candidate. Alonso has four picks, two sacks and over 120 tackles already this season. Those are volume numbers that grab your eyes.

Mathieu is very impactful in many ways. He has big plays, but his numbers aren't as eye-popping -- 67 tackles, two interceptions and a sack.

Will he land the award? That would be a fitting start to his young career, especially with his story. I personally don't expect it, not because of his play, but rather Alonso's, but that doesn't mean he isn't worthy to be in the discussion. He does deserve it and I hope he does get it.