Following the 2009 season Taylor Mays was considered a top 10 pick by most draft experts. However sating himself, Pete Carroll, talked Mays into returning for his senior season. The USC coaching staff decided to have Mays switch roles after an All-American junior year, and the results were not great. To add insult to injury, Taylor Mays saw his draft stock plummet and Carroll pass up on him twice in the 1st round; once time in favor of another safety, Earl Thomas. While, that seems to have been a good move for Seattle; it couldn't have felt good for Mays.
Luckily for the 49ers they saw Taylor Mays fall onto their lap in the 2nd round. I considered it an absolute steal to get a player with top five athletic ability in the middle of the 2nd round.
2nd Round, 49th Pick: S- Taylor Mays Southern California
2010 Stats: 16 Games, 6 Starts, 38 Tackles, 2 Passes Defended, 2 Forced Fumbles, 1 TD
How much better could it have turned out for the 49ers in the 2nd round of the 2010 draft. In Taylor Mays they were able to address a while getting tremendous value. This is a player that pretty much dominated at the college level for most of his career and could have possibly come right in as a starting safety. After all, this was a Mike Singletary type of player; someone that wasn't afraid to stick his neck out there and punish the opposing offensive players.
That said, it didn't turn out as great as some people envisioned. Taylor Mays had a difficult transition not only from the PAC 10 to the NFL, but also by pretty much switching positions for the third time in two years.
Taylor Mays got his first start against the Falcons in week 4 and surprised many people with a solid stat line of 11 tackles and 9 solo. However, it really didn't equate to well in the game as the Falcons won towards the end.
This started a nice stretch of games in which Mays was involved a great deal in the defensive scheme and seemed to be maturing as a player. He was extremely solid for a good month, but something changed. Following a strong performance in which Mays had 7 tackles in a win against the Broncos; he was slowly lifted from the regular safety rotation. In the 49ers final 8 games Taylor Mays recorded a total of six tackles.
Some of this had to do with a perceived regression on the part of Taylor Mays by the 49ers coaching staff. That said, I don't think they handled the situation correctly. Taylor Mays was going to go through bumps and bruises during the season, most rookies do. Sometimes, you have to allow the rookie to play through mistakes and mature as a place. However, Mike Singletary's job was on the line and he had to go with the players who had the most experience. I really don't think the situation helped Mays mature during his rookie season.
I fully expect Taylor Mays to have a standout 2011 season. The 49ers added some nice coaches to the secondary, have a staff that isn't worried about being fired and will play the youngsters. Listen, Taylor Mays has all the athletic ability in the world, he has the maturity off the field like a pro and is a great learner. If Mays gets the right coaching there is no reason to believe that he won't be a top level safety in the NFL.
2nd Round, 50th Pick: CB- Javier Arenas Alabama
2010 Stats: 16 Games, 2 Starts, 43 Tackles, 9 Passes Defended, 3 Sacks, 2 Forced Fumbles, 0 INT
8.2 Punt Return Average, 21.2 Kick Return Average
Analysis: Boy did Arenas fill up the stat boards in 2011, but does that mean he was a standout player? Normally, stats do not tell the entire story, but in his case they did. Listen, I was a huge fan or Arenas' heading into the 2010 draft, but I may be bias. But, he may end up being one of the true steals of that draft.
Logic tells you that 5, 9' corners will not succeed in the NFL, but logic has its downfalls. From what I saw in Arenas at Alabama in college and with Kansas City in the NFL, I am as high on him as any none 1st round pick since the 2007 draft. Look for Arenas to contribute in all aspects of the field, including offense, for the next ten years; he is that talented.
That said, the acquisition of Ted Ginn prior to the 2010 draft pretty much took Javier Arenas off of their immediate radar. Moving forward, it could be noted that Taylor Mays and Javier Areneas were top 15 talents.
2nd Round, 52nd Pick: LB- Jason Worilds Virginia Tech
2010 Stats: 14 Games, 17 Tackles, 12 Solo, 2 Sacks
Analysis: It is going to be extremely hard to analyze whether or not Worilds met expectations as a 2nd round pick last year. The reason for that is he was seen somewhat as a project, someone that would take a year or two to transition to the NFL.
In retrospect, it is hard to question the Steelers draft day decision; but I might have to. Jermaine Cunninghan and Carlos Dunlap (reference below) were probably better options for them. That said, those of us who study the draft understood that Worilds would be a project and probably wouldn't contribute greatly his first year.
2nd Round, 54th Pick: DE- Carlos Dunlap Florida
2010 Stats: 24 Tackles, 9.5 Sacks
Analysis: 9.5 sacks is pretty amazing for a 2nd round rookie. Does this translate to a productive NFL Career? In Dunlap's role it does; at least in a pure pass rush mold.
I am not sure that Dunlap will ever be a true three down player in the NFL, he is horrible against the run. But, so is Demarcus Ware.
I expect Dunlap to be an amazing pass rusher in the NFL, I really do think he has the athletic ability to do so.
Overview: I really do think that the 49ers pick of Taylor Mays was the best one they could have made. We will see a nice amount of success beyond the 49th pick, but not that talent that Mays holds.
In short, Taylor Mays will prove to be a great pick moving forward as will Carlos Dunlap and Javier Arenas. This means that 2nd round picks will succeed in a greater percentage than first round picks during the 2010 draft. I honestly can see that happening.
I cannot and will not question the 49ers pick of Mays because I believe that it will represent a heist two years from now.