It was just one year ago that Taylor Mays was being heralded as the best safety to come out of college since Troy Polamalu. Some people even suggested he could even be a top- five pick last year.
Opting to return to USC this season, Mays could have knocked him out of the first round entirely. His coverage skills have become exposed, and many people are questioning if he can be that shut-down safety everyone has grown to expect.
Although legendary draft analyst Mel Kiper currently picks him at No. 23 in the first round, you have to ask how far off he may be. Kiper says the Green Bay Packers will make him their first round pick—and no question—they could use the help.
However, the Senior Bowl so far has done nothing to reassure scouts that Mays' sub-par senior season was a fluke. Mays has continued to struggle covering receivers—as he has shown all season long.
Although he may not be first round material anymore, arguably, he is overwhelmingly an early second round talent still. He put up career-high numbers in 2009, but he hasn't been the imposing force on the field as he was in 2008.
Can it be coached?
His measurables and athletic ability are unrivaled in the draft this year. With some mentoring, Mays will be a great safety, just don't expect the immediate impact like the scouts had been saying.
Mays currently ranks as the number three overall safety, behind Eric Berry and Earl Thomas, but he will hands-down make any team's secondary better.
I'll leave you with some wishful thinking: Imagine if Berry falls to the Browns in the first round, and Taylor Mays in the second round?
My sympathies go out in advance to the AFC's quarterbacks.