Taylor Mays

2010 Draft Grades: 49ers

The 49ers had a chance to make a splash with their two 1st round picks, but I’m not sure they accomplished that.

They reached for Anthony Davis. He just isn’t polished enough to have been selected 11th overall. There’s no denying his potential, but he has yet to show that he can be consistent. That said, San Francisco just might be a perfect place for him. He’s best suited at right tackle, at least early in his career, and that’s likely where he’ll play with the 49ers.

I love the selection of Mike Iupati. He’ll be a starter from day one and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he earned a trip to the Pro Bowl as a rookie. He’s the best interior lineman to enter the draft since I started scouting in 2004.

The issue I have with their two 1st round picks, however, is the fact that they’re showing an awful lot of confidence in Alex Smith by selecting two offensive linemen. Essentially they’re saying: you’ve got your star receiver, you’ve got your star running back, you’ve got your offensive line, now go lead us to the playoffs. If he doesn’t make major strides this year the 49ers will be back to the drawing board sooner rather than later.

The 49ers may have landed one of the top steals of the draft by snagging Taylor Mays in the 2nd round. At some point in the past year Mays became so overrated that I think he’s now actually underrated (if that makes any sense). Yes, he struggles in coverage, but he does a lot of other things very well. He’s a force against the run and he has the athleticism necessary to improve his coverage skills.

Navorro Bowman is a big risk due to his character concerns, but the 49ers look like a good place for players like him to land. Mike Singletary isn’t afraid to put players in their place, and in the 3rd round there’s very little risk involved.

I love the selection of Anthony Dixon in the 6th round. I honestly have no clue why he fell that far. He has impressive size and adequate speed. He actually reminds me of Frank Gore to an extent. He should be given an opportunity to compete with Glen Coffee for the backup job.

Nate Byham was also a great pick. They needed a blocking tight end and Byham can fill that role perfectly.

Kyle Williams, the son of White Sox GM Kenny Williams, is a decent late-round pick. He can potentially help out as a return specialist, but I don’t see him being much of an asset as a receiver.

The one thing missing from this draft was a cornerback, which they didn’t land until the 7th round with Phillip Adams. He’s a decent athlete but he doesn’t look like anything special. He’ll compete for a backup job, but the 49ers really needed to do more to address this need.

I was very surprised at the way the 49ers draft shaped up. They’ve spent the past two drafts building an offense that should be able to compete immediately, but if Alex Smith doesn’t make major strides this season it may be all for nothing. It would be devastating to have spent this much effort rebuilding an offense only to be forced to start over again at quarterback in next year’s draft.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 49ers, Draft Grades - 2010 Comments Off

10 Bold Predictions for the NFL Draft

10. The Raiders will be criticized for their 1st-round pick
Ok, so maybe this isn’t quite a bold prediction. No one has any idea who the Raiders are going to draft, but I can all but guarantee it will be a reach.

9. C.J. Spiller will be a top-10 pick
And he can thank Chris Johnson for paving the way. The NFL is a copycat league and now everyone wants to the next Johnson. Spiller is an option for the Browns, Raiders and Jaguars. Someone such as the 49ers may also try to trade up for him.

8. Two TCU players will be drafted in the 1st round
Jerry Hughes is all but locked into the 1st round, but his teammate Daryl Washington could join him. He’s a perfect fit for the Colts and Saints and could sneak into the late 1st round. It would be the first time since 1939 that two Horned Frogs went in the 1st round.

7. Bruce Campbell will fall to the 2nd round
Al Davis will consider him with the 8th pick, but he’ll pass. And so will everyone else. Someone will eventually scoop up the most overrated draft prospect to come along in years in the early-to-mid 2nd round.

6. Pete Carroll will reach for someone from USC
Taylor Mays? Everson Griffen? Both could be options for the Seahawks in the 1st round. He may even be tempted to reach for someone like Jeff Byers later on. College coaches are always blinded by familiarity when they move to the NFL game.

5. The Cowboys will draft a WR in the 1st or 2nd round
Motivated by the Redskins acquisition of Donovan McNabb, Jerry Jones will feel the need to bolster his offense. The NFC East could feature a number of shootouts in 2010 and Jones wants to stay ahead of the curve.

4. A  Pro Bowler will be traded
Ronnie Brown? McKinnie? Umenyiora? Roethlisberger?

3. The Steelers will draft a quarterback
Not necessary in the first two rounds, but they’ll grab a signal caller at some point. Maybe Dan LeFevour in the 3rd round? Tony Pike in the 4th? John Skelton in the 5th?

2. There will be at least 5 trades in the 1st round
This could be one of the busiest 1st rounds in recent memory. With so much talent in this year’s class, teams will be motivated to move in two directions. On one hand, some great players will fall and teams will want to move up to grab them. On the other hand, as those great players fall, more good players will be available in the late 1st and early 2nd round.

1. At least 3 quarterbacks will be selected in the 1st round
We know Sam Bradford and Jimmy Clausen will be 1st round picks. But don’t be shocked when a third comes off the board in the late 1st. The Vikings could take Tim Tebow. The Bills or Browns may also trade up for Colt McCoy.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Bills, Browns, Colts, Cowboys, Jaguars, Raiders, Saints, Steelers, Vikings 95 Comments

Have the Cowboys draft plans changed?

The Cowboys have parted ways with veterans Flozell Adams and Ken Hamlin, opening up two starting jobs which the Cowboys could fill in the draft.

The more glaring of the two holes is the one created by the departure of Adams at left tackle. He was a stalwart on their offensive line for over a decade. While his play certainly diminished over the past year, they don’t have an obvious replacement on their current roster.

Among their current linemen, Doug Free would likely get the first shot but its more likely that they’ll target a lineman in the draft. The question, of course, is who?

With the 27th pick in the draft the Cowboys can’t count on anyone being available. Russell Okung, Bryan Bulaga and Trent Williams will likely be gone in the top 10. Anthony Davis could also go in the top 10 and will almost certainly be gone by No. 27. That leaves Charles Brown and Bruce Campbell as the only possible 1st-rounders available, but even they aren’t guaranteed to fall to the Cowboys. If Campbell goes to the Raiders, as many are predicting, it would seem unlikely that any of the top six tackles fall to No. 27.

That would leave the Cowboys with three options:

2010 NFL Combine - Day One

Could the Cowboys make Ducasse a 1st-round pick?

First, they could try to trade up. One of the top six is likely to fall into the 15-20 range which would be within reach for the Cowboys if they wish to move up.

The second option would be to reach for the next best available lineman. They could take a chance on Vladimir Ducasse if they view him as an offensive tackle. He has the size that the Cowboys like on their offensive line, but he’s a project. It would definitely be a risk, but they may view it as the best option.

And finally, they could decide to pass on the position altogether. They could hope that Ducasse or Jared Veldheer falls to the late 2nd round and turn their attention to safety in the 1st round.

If they decide to address their need for a free safety in the 1st round they will have no shortage of options. The top two prospects, Eric Berry and Earl Thomas, will likely be off the board but there are at least two other options. Taylor Mays and Nate Allen would appear to be the most likely candidates. If it comes down to those two, Mays could be the favorite due to his impressive size/speed combination. Its a quality that we’ve seen in numerous Cowboys safeties over the years (Roy Williams, Darren Woodson) and Jerry Jones isn’t shy about speaking up and pushing his front office in the direction of a certain player on draft day.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Cowboys Comments Off

Dolphins showing strong interest in free safeties

Last week I suggested that the Dolphins could target Taylor Mays in the 1st round. At the time it was pure speculation based on Bill Parcells’ draft history and their need for a free safety. But now there appears to be some validity to my prediction.

2010 NFL Combine - Day Four

Could the Dolphins target Earl Thomas in the 1st round?

The Dolphins are showing a strong interest in this year’s class of free safeties and appear likely to land one in the 1st or 2nd round. In addition to Mays, the Dolphins either already have or soon will workout Earl Thomas, Morgan Burnett, Reshad Jones and Myron Lewis. Thomas and Mays would be 1st-round targets. Burnett and Jones would likely be options in the 2nd round. Lewis will likely be available in the 3rd round or later.

As I outlined in my previous post on Mays, he fits the Parcells profile best due to his size and athleticism. However, that doesn’t mean Parcells is married to that specific skill set.

This is a very deep class for safeties, with as many as seven potentially coming off the board in the first two rounds. Given that depth, it would be mildly surprising to see the Dolphins spend the 12th pick on Mays or Thomas. There’s simply better value in taking a safety in the 2nd round. That said, they’re obviously doing their homework and strongly considering that option.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Dolphins Comments Off

All-Overrated Draft Prospects Team

QB – Tim Tebow, Florida
Someone’s going to take him in the 1st or 2nd round, and they’re going to have to wait at least 2 years before he’s ready to start at quarterback (if he’s ever ready).

RB – C.J. Spiller, Clemson
He’s not the next Chris Johnson. The next Leon Washington is more likely. He’s simply not an every-down running back.

RB – Jahvid Best, California
Same criticism of Spiller applies here. He’s a change-of-pace back, a better version of Ahmad Bradshaw.

WR – Damian Williams, USC
He’s too skinny to be an elite receiver. He’ll get pushed around by more physical defensive backs, and he lacks the speed to break away.

WR – Mike Williams, Syracuse
I wouldn’t touch him with a 10-foot pole. Off-field issues make him undraftable in my book. Not even worth a 7th round pick.

TE – Anthony McCoy, USC
He’s a serviceable tight end due to his blocking ability, but he won’t contribute as a receiver. The next Christian Fauria.

OT – Bruce Campbell, Maryland
How anyone can watch him on film and give him a grade higher than the 3rd round baffles me. Athleticism only takes you so far.

OT – Trent Williams, Oklahoma
Definitely has upside, but his lack of production in his only year at left tackle is very concerning.

OG – Vladimir Ducasse, Massachusetts
Size and athleticism are making scouts drool, but he is very raw. He could be the next Larry Allen, he could be the next Qasim Mitchell.

OG – Sergio Render, Virginia Tech
I’m reaching here because no one else jumps out. Render impressed early in his career, but never showed improvement.

C – Eric Olsen, Notre Dame
Was never overly impressive at Notre Dame, and he struggled in one-on-one drills at the Senior Bowl.

DE – Jason Pierre-Paul, South Florida
Claims about his elite athleticism are overstated. Derrick Morgan is of similar size and build and performed equally, if not better, in every drill at the combine.

DE – George Selvie, South Florida
After a standout sophomore year, Selvie was non-factor for two full seasons. Yet he still generates interest from those that remember his 2007 campaign.

DT – Terrence Cody, Alabama
Weight is still a serious concern. He’ll never be able to stay on the field consistently.

DT – Arthur Jones, Syracuse
High expectations for his senior year never panned out. Injury concerns and lack of production limit his upsite.

OLB – Ricky Sapp, Clemson
Only one year of experience at linebacker after transitioning from end. Lack of elite production and ACL tear in 2008 raise red flags.

OLB – Navorro Bowman, Penn State
Doesn’t have the elite on-field production to make up for his serious character concerns.

ILB – Brandon Spikes, Florida
Spikes’ recent 40 times raise serious red flags. He may simply lack the speed to play in the NFL.

CB – Joe Haden, Florida
He’s a legitimate 1st-round prospect, but doesn’t deserve a top-10 grade. The gap between him and the next-best corners has raised his stock above where it realistically should be.

CB – Patrick Robinson, Florida State
Robinson has elite speed, but he’s one of the least physical corners I’ve seen in recent years. Off-field concerns further hurt his stock.

S – Taylor Mays, USC
Mays is so universally viewed as overrated that I considered leaving him off the list. But his production just hasn’t matched his physical ability.

S – T.J. Ward, Oregon
The potential is there, but he can’t stay healthy. Multiple ankle and knee injuries raise serious doubts about his ability to stay on the field.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft Comments Off

Could Dolphins target Taylor Mays?

I’ve had the Dolphins paired up with Dan Williams in my mock draft for about a month now. He would fill their need for a nose tackle, which is greater than ever now that Jason Ferguson is suspended for the first half of the 2010 season. But what if he’s not on the board?

The Bills are transitioning from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense and are lacking a true nose tackle. They’d much prefer to take a quarterback (most likely Jimmy Clausen) but if he’s off the board their attention could turn to Williams.

That would leave presumably leave he Dolphins with three options:

1. Take Dez Bryant
Wide receiver is their most glaring need, especially a big target like Bryant. However, Parcells loathes the idea of taking receivers early in the draft. Throw in the fact that Bryant is perceived as lazy and a bit of a prima donna, and it just doesn’t seem like a plausible option.

2. Take the best available pass rusher
The Dolphins need to replace Joey Porter and Jason Taylor. Cameron Wake has one starting outside linebacker job wrapped up, but the other is wide open. Jason Pierre-Paul and Brandon Graham would appear to be great fits. However, its a deep class for hybrid pass rushers, and a quality player could be found later in the draft.

3. Take a free safety
CFB: USC vs UCLA DEC 6The Dolphins parted ways with free safety Gibril Wilson after the season, opening up a hole in the secondary. Earl Thomas is likely to be the highest rated safety on most boards, but he doesn’t quite fit the profile of what Parcells looks for in a defensive back. Parcells has a tendency to become enamored with big, athletic safeties. The best recent example is Pat Watkins, whom he selected in the 5th round in 2006. Watkins never quite panned out, but Parcells thrust him into the starting lineup as a rookie. I remember reading during the season quotes from Parcells marveling at the athleticism of a man his size (6’4″, 220). If he was wowed by Watkins, what must he think of Taylor Mays?

Obviously a lot has to play out in order for the Dolphins to even consider Mays. I have little doubt that Parcells would prefer Dan Williams, but there remains a very realistic possibility that he’s gone by the time Dolphins are on the clock. Mays to the ‘Phins may be a long shot, but don’t be shocked to hear his name called at No. 12 on April 22.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Dolphins 1 Comment

With the 8th pick in the 2010 NFL Draft the Raiders select…

The scouting combine is now complete, which means one thing: Al Davis has his pick ready to go.

Or at least he will whenever he gets around to reading the 40 times.

Its comical that an organization worth over three-quarters of a billion dollars could be run by such an incompetent individual. Yet every year Al Davis amazes us with his draft blunders.

He’s enamored by the biggest, strongest and fastest players with little regard for their actually ability on the football field. As a result, the scouting combine has essentially become a glorified tryout for the Raiders. The players who rate at the top of their position instantly shoot up Davis’ draft board. Which means that on March 3 we can already narrow down the Raiders potential targets in the 1st round to three names…

2010 NFL Combine - Day Three

Jason Pierre-Paul works out at the combine

3. Bruce Campbell
Watch Campbell at the combine, and he looks like a top-10 pick. Watch him on film, and he looks like a 4th-rounder. That can only mean one thing: Al Davis will love him. Its hard to imagine anyone selecting Campbell in the top seven, meaning he’s all but guaranteed to be on the board for Davis at No. 8. Couple Campbell’s combine performance with the fact that the Raiders are desperate for an upgrade over Mario Henderson at left tackle, and you have the perfect scenario for another Raiders draft debacle.

2. Jason Pierre-Paul
Unlike Campbell, I don’t think this pick would be an unmitigated disaster. The Raiders have done a nice job developing defensive talent in recent years, and Pierre-Paul may have the highest ceiling of any defensive lineman in this year’s draft. His size/speed combination is unmatched by any other defensive linemen in this year’s draft class and he would be an excellent compliment to Richard Seymour on Oakland’s defensive line. The downside to selecting JPP is that he is as raw as they come, with just one year of experience at the D-I level. But when has that ever stopped Al Davis?

1. Taylor Mays
I first matched Mays up with the Raiders in my first 2010 mock draft back in August. Knowing that the Raiders would be selecting in the top 10 and that Mays was sure to impress at the combine it seemed like a match made in heaven. The only thing that may discourage Davis from selecting Mays is the fact that he selected a similar player (in terms of raw physical ability) in the 2nd round last year in Michael Mitchell.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Raiders 1 Comment

10 Players Who Should Put on a Show at the Combine

10. Taylor Mays S USCCFB: Notre Dame vs USC NOV 29 Mays will put on a show, we know that for certain, but will anyone care? We know he’s fast. We know he’s strong. We know he can jump out of the gym. Expectations for Mays’ performance are so high that will be almost impossible to live up to the hype. Even if he does, there are enough skeptics out there that it may not help his stock. Unless Al Davis grabs him in the top 10 that is…

9. Jared Odrick DT Penn State For an interior lineman, Odrick is a chiseled athlete. Unlike most tackles, Odrick isn’t carrying around too much excess weight; he’s 300 pounds of muscle. He should be one of the faster interior linemen in Indy and should also show off some impressive strength. His blend of strength and athleticism make him a perfect fit at defensive end in a 3-4 scheme.

8. Everson Griffen DE USC Griffen is overshadowed by the elite athletes at the defensive end position (Pierre-Paul, Dunlap, Morgan, etc) but he’s no stiff. At 6’3″ and roughly 280 pounds, Griffen could open some eyes if he runs in the 4.6 range in the 40. It’s tough to call anyone from USC “underrated” but Griffen may be just that. He’s more athletic that he gets credit for, and should prove that at the combine.

7. Mike Iupati OG Idaho Iupati may not be the most athletic player in Indy, but his brute strength is sure to catch the eye of scouts. He’s already solidified his place in the 1st round, but his performance on the bench press may further improve his stock. Teams that are looking for a power run blocker will keep a close eye on him all week.

Ole Misss Dexter McCluster in the AT&T Cotton Bowl6. Dexter McCluster RB/WR Mississippi
All eyes will be on McCluster when he lines up for the 40-yard dash. He’s expected to run in the 4.3 range, and it could crack the 4.2 barrier. He’ll likely do some drills as a receiver and a running back, giving him ample opportunities to impress teams with his versatility.

5. Aaron Hernandez TE Florida
Hernandez doesn’t have the height of an elite tight end (he’s only 6’2″) but he may be the most athletic player at the position to enter the draft since Vernon Davis. He has the skills of an over-sized receiver and should be one of the standouts at Indy – especially if Jermaine Gresham and Rob Gronkowski are unable to work out.

4. Austen Lane DE Murray State
A little-known defensive end from Murray State could be the star of the combine. At 6’6″, 267 pounds he clearly has the size to take his game to the next level. What scouts want to see, however, is how he stacks up athletically with the premiere prospects. With an impressive performance, he could skyrocket up the draft boards.

3. Chad Jones S LSU
In any other year we’d be talking about Jones as the premiere athlete at the safety position. He’s overshadowed by Taylor Mays, but don’t sleep on Jones. He is every bit as physically gifted as Mays and many believe he may be a better all-round football player. If he matches Mays’ workout numbers, Jones could make a run at being the second safety off the board.

2. Jared Veldheer OT Hillsdale
Teams are always looking for a sleeper to step up and show he has the athleticism to play left tackle in the pros. This year Jared Veldheer could be the beneficiary of the NFL’s obsession with left tackles. Much like Sebastian Vollmer climbed from unknown to 2nd-round pick in 2009, Veldheer could do the same with an impressive workout this week.

1. Jason Pierre-Paul DE South Florida
Last year at this time Pierre-Paul hadn’t even set foot on a D-I football field. Now he’s a potential top-10 pick. He’s as raw as the come, but has the pure athleticism to make scouts drool. He should easily rank among the top defensive linemen in every drill at the combine.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft 4 Comments