Southern California Senior
PROS: Has excellent size and speed. Shows it with his range and potential to make plays all over the field. Is quick to come upfield and play the run and usually makes the stop. Has excellent closing burst on the ball and can deliver a big, highlight reel hit on a receiver over the middle. Shows ability to play deep centerfield, able to read the quarterback's eyes, and with his speed in a position to make a play on the ball.
CONS: Not instinctual and rarely seems to make the smart play. Tends to lower the shoulder for the highlight hit, rather than wrapping up and breaking down as a tackler. Will tackle too high, and can miss stops in the open field on occasion because of it. Takes poor angles to the ball and can get caught out of position at the point of attack. Not comfortable taking on blockers when working in the box, and tends to run around them. Lacks ideal awareness and instincts to consistent break on the pass when working in deep cover. Tends to play the receiver rather than the ball looking rather to hit receiver and break up the pass, which limits his turnovers.
OVERVIEW: Mays has a lot of tools, but also needs a lot of coaching. He's just not an instinctual player and for the most part got by at USC because of his superior athleticism, not because there appears to be a lot going on upstairs. Didn't make a ton of big plays during his college career. Started as a freshman, making him a four-year starter at free safety. Had 3 picks his first season, but only had 2 in the past three years. Led team with 96 tackles as a senior. Also had a total of 18 pass breakups his last three seasons with a career-high 9 as a junior. ONly forced 1 fumble his entire career, which is surprising considering his jarring hits. Had he come out a year ago, almost certainly would have been a first round pick because there was less tape to scrutinize and no Eric Berry to contrast him with.
NFL FORECAST: The key to Mays will be his interview, and really understanding how his mind and personality works. Because I believe he can be a competent starting strong safety in the NFL in the right situation. The situation may be Cincinnati, since he is a similar player to Roy Williams, and somehow Mike Zimmer has managed to get the most out of Roy Williams where he isn't a significant liability there as well as in his earlier years in Dallas. I think you can do the same with Mays, but I think in order to get the most out of his ability, you're going to have to ride him hard in both practice during the week. And then also have a fairly smart and disciplined veteran free safety that can baby-sit him on Sundays. And that's why the interview process is so important, because you need to discover whether he can take to hard coaching. Not everyone can, and Mays didn't get that at USC under Pete Carroll. So if you don't think he'll respond well to hard coaching, then there's no point really looking at him as a potential starter. If you can get him to start really focusing on the details and keep him in the film room, I see no reason why he can't be a good starter at the next level. Will he give up some plays, miss some tackles, etc.? Yeah, he'll never be consistent. But I think with time, effort, patience, and a lot of yelling, you can get him to a point where those mistakes aren't that common. The problem he may run into like Roy Williams did in Dallas is that he'll find a coach/scheme that he works well with, and then they change coaches/schemes, and then his play just goes down. Mays isn't for everybody, but I'm positive there are a few teams he could go to and be a pretty good NFL safety. Him moving to outside lienbacker is too much of a project in my eyes because he's not comfortable taking on blockers in the box. He could be developed and improved there, but he's going to need at least two or three years of sitting before he can start to make an impact. I think you can put him on the field right away at safety. He'll make some mistakes when you throw him to the wolves, but if he has the mental fortitude to stand up to having the crosshairs on him, I think he can begin to grow from it in his second and third seasons. If I was to make a comparison, he would be the equivalent of a quarterback with Ben Roethlisberger's size, but Michael Vick's skillset. And that is just too an intriguing combination to not want to work with it and see if you can fix all of his mental deficiencies to make the most of his physical assets.
ATL FORECAST: I wouldn't want Mays here in Atlanta, only because he isn't a better option than Moore. Sure, he has more potential with his size, range, and speed, but not by a huge degree. And he's not heady enough to make me think he'll be a better safety than DeCoud. And as a linebacker, I just don't see him competing early enough to think he'll make an impact. If he was a Falcon, he'd be one of those players that Falcon fans two and three years from now are complaining about how he isn't paying dividends, much like Jimmy Williams.
VALUE: His athletic potential makes him probably one of the 5 or 10 best athletes in the class, but he's just too raw and too inconsistent to take in Round 1. Instead, I would take him in the latter part of Round 2 for a team looking for an enforcer at strong safety.
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite
BALL SKILLS: 2.0
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.