Taylor Mays is a guy who could have went top ten overall if only for a couple better performances when it came to passing situations in college. That was his biggest knock: that he's all athlete, without any tangible football skills outside of hitting people really hard. That's why he fell into the second round of the draft, but most did consider him a bundle of potential, and I'm inclined to agree. In a league where the majority of a team's roster comprises some of the best athletes in pro sports, Mays sits in the top five percentile. That's really refreshing for a 49ers secondary that is wholly lacking speed and athleticism through-and-through, but when your corners aren't great in coverage, you want your safeties to be able to contain and assist .. Mays just isn't there yet.
At least, he wasn't there last season, when he was given the starting role in lieu of Michael Lewis, who promptly stomped his feet and got sent out of San Francisco. The team wanted a speedier guy to be able to cover a lot of ground, and while I maintain that Lewis was more valuable than he'll ever be given credit for on Niners Nation, he clearly lost a step. So Mays stepped in.
It wasn't the worst showing on defense for somebody wearing the red and gold last year. It wasn't even the worst by a safety, in my opinion. I remember when Mays was benched in favor of Reggie Smith, I was surprised, because I thought Dashon Goldson was showing more lapses than Mays had, but I think that can also be attributed to the fact that Goldson was trying to compensate for more. One thing I really liked about Mays was the fact that he actually covered well early on, got in front of some passes and broke them up and things of that nature. He dropped back and he did what he was supposed to do, though that eventually broke down. But what that does is give me some hope, in that there's so much developmental potential there. The 49ers absolutely cannot make the mistake of playing Mays before he's ready, but they've got a very good, experienced defensive backs coach coming in and a defensive coordinator who loves movement and aggression, which can only mean good things for Mays.
To confidence levels - let's call a '10' a breakout season as a starter, not necessarily Pro Bowl, but he's out there and he looks good. Shows us a lot, looks like he deserves that first round pick and is unquestionable the starter. A '7' is something a little better than a starter, or is just unquestioned as our safety of the future in that regard. A '5' is some middling bit of uncertainty, but banking on potential, thinking he's the best option, etc. You guys can get the rest on your own.