Taylor Mays: 6'3", 231 lbs. FS/SS/OLB, USC, Senior
Projected Round: Early to Late First
Teams Interested: Oakland Raiders (8), Seattle Seahawks (14), Pittsburgh Steelers (18), Cincinnati Bengals (21)
Reminds Us of: Sean Taylor, Ken Hamlin, Thomas Davis (OLB)
Taylor Mays has become one of the most interesting players coming into the 2010 Combine. He gave up being a guaranteed top 10 pick by staying in school for another year, and that may cost him in the draft.
Mays is an amazing athlete; that is undeniable. He has freakish size that most linebackers dream of, and he should run faster than most of the cornerbacks at the combine.
Mays was mostly utilized as a center fielder, free safety at USC. At this position, he could close quickly on most receivers and would greet them with devastating hits. But in the pros, he could see himself switching more to a run stopping strong safety or even outside linebacker.
Mays often does not get credit for his intelligence. One of the main factors for him staying in school was to finish his education and become a better student of the game. Coach Pete Carrol has also given much praise to the young safety. He has called him a joy to coach and one of the most physically gifted players he has ever had.
Mays also comes from a pedigree background. His father Stafford, was an NFL defensive lineman for the Vikings and Cardinals for nine years.
Mays’s staying his senior year really exposed him to a lot of criticism. Many scouts had him listed as the No. 1 saftey at the beginning of the year, which can become a lot of pressure to live up to. Unfortunately, he has not lived up to these expectations.
Mays was mainly exposed in pass coverage this year. He often went for big hits when he could have easily intercepted or at least deflected the ball. He often took bad angles on receivers running deep and would either get beat or his raw athleticism would kick in to make a play.
Mays will not always be able to rely on his physical gifts, especially in the NFL when most receivers will be just as athletic. He must work on improving his lateral agility and become more instinctual on the field.
Another problem of Mays is his tackling. He often does not wrap up and is more preoccupied with laying a big hit. NFL running backs will make him pay next year if he does not properly tackle. Mays also has questionable hands for a centerfield-type safety. He only had five interceptions in his career, and three of them came his freshman year.
What We Can Expect at the Combine
Mays should be an absolute freak at the 2010 NFL Combine. He is rumored to run anywhere in the 4.2s or 4.3s. Either time would be unprecedented for someone his size and would only boost his draft stock.
However, the more important drill for Mays may be the shuttle drill.
Many scouts doubt his lateral quickness, and this drill would answer a lot of questions. This is the real drill that may decide if Mays is an early or late first round pick.
Mays will also be closely watched during the pass coverage drills. Scouts want to see him have smooth hips and a more natural feel as a safety, along with good hands.
Carrol has said Mays is an excellent kid and a student of the game. He should impress scouts during the interview portion. This too should improve his stock.
Players like Taylor Mays were made for the NFL Combine. He is a freak of nature athlete, who should floor some general managers—Al Davis?—and impress many scouts. Look for Mays to be a combine winner.