Potential Draft Picks: Taylor Mays, S, USC
Although we do not see safety as a top priority like most evaluators, the position could certainly be upgraded. Sensabaugh was solid but not great in 2009. He really did just about an average job in every aspect of the game, not making many big plays but not giving up many either (other than at Minnesota). If Dallas liked what they had in Gerald, they will have to re-sign him soon as he is a restricted free agent.
If the Cowboys are going to replace a safety, it will likely be FS Ken Hamlin. Hamlin had perhaps his worst year as a pro, getting beat often in coverage and displaying his usual below-average skills in run support. To his credit, he is more of a cerebral player than an incredible athlete. He is a big reason the Cowboys secondary rarely lined up incorrectly or blew a coverage.
Alan Ball did a respectable job filling in for Hamlin during his injury, and he may have an opportunity to win the starting job in training camp. Dallas also has two rookie safeties from last year, Michael Hamlin and Stephen Hodge, although neither is likely to make a major impact on defense. All of this depth (along with Patrick Watkins, who may get cut) is why we don’t see the Cowboys being major players in finding a new safety.
If they choose to do so, there are various safety prospects the Cowboys could look at in both the first and second rounds, including Earl Thomas, Nate Allen, Chad Jones, Morgan Burnett, and, our current feature, Taylor Mays.
Mays is an athletic freak. At 6’4”, 225 pounds, Mays may run a sub-4.4 forty at the NFL Combine next week. He is a huge hitter who flies to the ball. He is solid in run support, but often goes for the big hit instead of wrapping up.
His success in run support is not matched by his ability in pass coverage. Mays has no shot at playing free safety in the NFL because he is just too much of a liability in coverage. He has poor hips and, although he has superb speed, he does not play as fast as he will test. His lack of production the past two years at USC is evidence of this. His change of direction is average at best, and his ball skills are all but non-existent.
In our opinion, Mays would be well-served moving to 4-3 outside linebacker in the NFL. He is a terrible fit for Dallas because, if they choose to upgrade the safety position, it will be for a ball-hawking free safety who excels in coverage. Let’s hope Jerry doesn’t fall in love with Mays’ Combine numbers and star power.
Mays should light up the Combine, so if teams overreact, he could go in the top 15 picks. More likely, however, is that his lack of on-field production will drop him into the 20’s. If he falls to Dallas, though, we expect them to pass due to his poor fit in the Cowboys’ system.