For a team that won 11 games and was an overtime score away from reaching the NFC Divisional Round, the Green Bay Packers have a fair amount of needs they must address in the 2010 NFL Draft. There are the obvious needs at left tackle, right tackle, outside linebacker, and running back.
While it might not be considered a true "need", strong safety is an area where the Packers could improve if they were to address the position early in the draft. That's where Southern California's Taylor Mays comes in.
After an All-American junior season at USC, many expected Mays would enter the NFL Draft and be a top-15 pick. However, he decided to stay with the Trojans for his senior season, saying "there are a lot of things I want to accomplish as a player, a student, and a person."
While his numbers were better from his junior season than his senior season (53 to 88 tackles, one interception), his draft stock slipped after questions about his pass coverage skills and composure on the field arose. Known for the big hit at times, Mays missed some of the time and allowed the big play.
Even though he regressed in his senior year, Mays is still a physical specimen at 6'3", 235 pounds and has all the tools to potentially become one of the best strong safeties in the league.
Mays got his name back on the map with a 4.43 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, and he could wind up being drafted in the top 15 picks of the draft, where he was expected to go after his junior season. But if concerns about Mays' lack of a true position, technique, and coverage skills scare off GMs and he is available at the 23rd pick, the Packers should take a hard look at him.
Ted Thompson has been known to take the best player available with his first round pick, and there is no reason to believe this year will be any different. While a left tackle is coveted and this year's safety class is quite deep, Mays could very well be at the top of Thompson's draft board when the Packers go on the clock.
If he is the pick, Mays would join Nick Collins as one of the best safety duos in the NFL. The 3-4 defense would unleash Mays and let him use all his skills in a variety of ways. Mays' versatility to line up deep in coverage, in the box as an extra linebacker, or on the line as a rusher would have Dom Capers salivating. Last year Charles Woodson was able to show off all his talents by roaming the field, and Mays could do the same.
Technique issues like wrapping up instead of going for the big hit is something that can be fixed with the right amount of teaching. What can't be taught is Mays' combination of height, bulk, speed, and relentless attitude. When watching film on him , it's clear to see he would be the perfect complement to Collins as the hard hitter the Packers are looking for.
Having a player like Mays would also allow the Packers to have faster personnel on the field in packages like the "Big Okie" and "Psycho". When the defense shifts to five linebackers, Mays would be able to stay on the field, having the size of a linebacker and the speed of a defensive back.
Atari Bigby has played the position well the last three seasons but has struggled in pass defense and has not been as physical in the box the last year-and-a-half. The secondary would be fine with Bigby starting, but an upgrade at the position would do wonders for the defense. Mays could be that upgrade.
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