For a while now, I’ve been hearing numerous fans around the league compare 49ers’ rookie safety Taylor Mays to Hall-Of-Fame safety Ronnie Lott.
In my mind, this is completely and utterly unjust.
For those of you who may not be familiar with him, Lott is arguably among the top defensive backs of all time. His physical style of play struck fear into a receiver’s mind and as a result he would ultimately shut down the entire middle of the field. He was truly an offensive coordinator’s worst nightmare. Does that remind you of Taylor Mays? I certainly don’t think so.
In fact, I don’t even see much of a resemblance between the two.
First of all, Mays is much bigger and a much better athlete than Lott was.
There’s no doubt that Lott was one of the most feared hitters in the history of the game. However, that was due to his incredible tackle technique and timing.
Mays, on the other hand, is very sloppy and lacks gap discipline. If you watch his game film at USC, you will notice that on several occasions he tries to go for the big blow, and instead ends up whiffing on the ball carrier completely. That sure doesn't sound like Lott to me.
In addition, Lott possessed incredible versatility as he was able to effectively play all three positions in the secondary. Some experts are noting that Mays may not even be able to play in the secondary due to his shaky cover skills.
If you want to compare Ronnie Lott to a current player, a better match would be Ed Reed. At least he has something tangible—six All-Pro selections—to show for himself. Reed is one of the league’s most assertive defensive playmakers, a trait that Lott commanded during his 14-year career.
Taylor Mays is just a second round draft pick at this point. He hasn’t even stepped on the field yet. Does he have tremendous potential? Yes. However, until he develops that into talent, he shouldn’t even be considered the team’s top safety, let alone be in the same discussion with a 10-time Pro Bowler.
Comparing the two is like saying that pitcher Stephen Strausburg is the next Walter Johnson, or that point guard John Wall is the next Magic Johnson. It’s simply ridiculous.
Of course, I am confident that Taylor Mays will eventually be a solid playmaker for the 49ers. At this time, though, I don’t see any signs that he will be the “Next Ronnie Lott”, other than the fact that they both attended USC.
That said, hypothetically speaking, do I hope he is? Obviously. However, will our dreams become reality? Only time will tell. The only thing I can assure you of, is that now is clearly not the time.