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Posted March 3, 2010
No player has more buzz about him coming out of the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine than USC safety Taylor Mays.
However, I've seen too much bad tape to justify changing my opinion. I already knew he was a physical freak. I expected him to run in the 4.4s or a high 4.3. I was done with him as a prospect when I put on the Notre Dame-USC tape and saw him miss opportunity after opportunity.
When push comes to shove, nobody in the NFL cares what I think, and I certainly in no way shape or form impact the 2010 NFL Draft. My evaluation is only important to my audience and my own self-critique as I try to improve my eye for talent.
Somebody is going to fall in love with Mays. He has a serious personality and a great work ethic. There was at least one coach watching Mays in the seats of Lucas Oil Stadium that fell in love with the kid in an interview and then was blown away by his on-field workout.
Mays ran in the 4.3 range (between Jacoby Ford's 4.28 and Trindon Holliday's 4.34) according to the NFL Network simulcast - so ignore the "official" 4.43 time. At 230 pounds that is unbelievable, and the Mays camp is going to sell teams that he can be coached up, and like Deion Sanders was saying yesterday, every coach has an ego. Coaches have emotional ties to the game and they are very confident in their abilities to maximize the production of their players.
Despite grading out Mays as a second-round safety prospect, I have never mocked him out of the first round. Now, I doubt he gets out of the top 20 picks. I wanted to write this blog to examine his greatest possibilities:
Oakland: I really feel like they are dead set on Bruce Campbell. Sure, Mays ran a 4.3, but they drafted Michael Mitchell in the second round last year. Bruce Campbell's 4.78 unofficial time at 313 pounds is more impressive than Mays' freak workout. Campbell might be regarded as the best physical specimen in the history of the NFL Draft - that's right, even better than former No. 2 overall pick Tony Mandarich who admitted steroid use. Al Davis wants to prove Jamarcus Russell is "a... great... player..." and will draft the left tackle to man his blind side. I don't think he is going to give up on Russell so all signs point to Campbell being the pick here.
Buffalo: There are greater needs in Buffalo at left tackle (Bryan Bulaga) and wide receiver (Dez Bryant). With the move to the 3-4 defense I also think Tennessee's Dan Williams is a sleeper pick here at No. 9 overall if you put him at nose tackle. They already have Donte Whitner and I don't feel like Mays fits what they want to do.
Jacksonville: After a highly impressive 2009 NFL Draft I think Jacksonville's scouting department and general manager Gene Smith is too smart to take Mays here and they certainly have bigger needs than strong safety. Watch out for them to take Jason Pierre-Paul, Dez Bryant, Dan Williams, or most notably trading out of the pick.
Denver: While nose tackle Dan Williams, receiver Dez Bryant, and linebacker Rolando McClain remain the favorites at this pick, I wouldn't rule out Taylor Mays to the Broncos. This team drafted Darcel McBath in the second round last year as a free safety, but Brian Dawkins is getting older. Denver had a bad draft last year (Robert Ayers at rush linebacker, trading a future first-rounder for a slow nickel, taking blocking tight end in the second round) so I can't rule it out that Josh McDaniels would reach since he reached in the past.
Miami: This team has much bigger needs than safety. They will be targeting the same three as Denver (Williams, McClain, Bryant), but they also have a need at rush linebacker. Yeremiah Bell is a very underrated strong safety and the Fins spent two high picks on defensive backs last year (Vontae Davis and Sean Smith). I think they will go in a different direction and diversify with this first-round pick.
San Francisco: Armed with two first round picks (Nos. 13 and 17), I think the 49ers are one of the favorites for Mays. For one, they might feel like they have a "luxury pick" since they have an extra first and would be willing to gamble on a kid like Mays. Mike Singletary will identify with Mays' physical nature and feel like he can coach him up. Michael Lewis has a $4 million price tag and beat writer extraordinaire Matt Maiocco has reported that he might be cut this offseason. The 49ers should be very familiar with Mays since they are located in California and I can't rule this out as a possible destination.
Seattle: Nobody in this draft knows Taylor Mays better than Pete Carroll who coached him at USC - but does he know him too well? Could he believe in him too much? Carroll could completely change this draft if he would prefer to pass up on Eric Berry at No. 6 overall and instead try to nab Mays with his second pick in the first round. Seattle is desperate for safeties and we can't rule this is as a possibility.
N.Y. Giants, Tennessee, Pittsburgh and Atlanta: None of these teams have a need at strong safety and I'd be shocked if they took Mays in the first round.
Houston: If Gary Kubiak and company believes they can mold Mays into a free safety (but with zero ball skills and poor instincts that's an awfully tough proposition) then they might select him here at No. 20. They already have Bernard Pollard entrenched at strong safety. This is a possibility, but I'm not confident in saying Houston is a likely destination.
There you have it in terms of Mays' draft range in the top 20 picks. I really have a hard time seeing him go in the top eight (and Eric Berry being on the board after the fifth pick) with so much bad tape and therefore I ruled it out. We now know the most likely destinations, barring a crazy trade up from a team outside the top 20, are Denver, San Francisco and Seattle. Some team will take Mays in the first round, and it is going to be very interesting where this freak of nature ends up.