What can Mayo possibly do for an encore? Win NFL Rookie of the Year, of course. At least one respected football expert believes that's the next step in the ex-Vol linebacker's dizzying rise from third-round projection to big-time professional.
The editors of ProFootballWeekly.com offer their rookie predictions in an article entitled "Who will win the 2008 Rookie of the Year Award?" Mayo is the first player mentioned, being the pick of PFW managing editor Mike Holbrook.
Here's what Holbrook has to say about the former Volunteer:
"It was a mild surprise that the Patriots drafted a linebacker in the first round, something they hadn't done during Bill Belichick's time running the team. However, everyone knew how desperately the Pats needed to bolster their aging LB corps and, for once, the Patriots made the expected move. Belichick has traditionally preferred savvy veterans to carry out the myriad duties required of 'backers in his complex defense. But Mayo has the size (6-1¼, 242), versatility, instincts, intelligence and desire that the Patriots couldn't pass up. Plus, he has excellent speed (4.59), something New England's LB corps had been sorely lacking. Mayo, who played both inside and outside at Tennessee, was a tackle machine in college, tallying a team-best 140 in 2007 on his way to being honored as a first-team All-SEC pick. It wouldn't surprise me if he had the kind of impact that the 49ers' Patrick Willis, the Panthers' Jon Beason and the Jets' David Harris had last year. Unlike those players, Mayo will be playing on a prime Super Bowl contender, creating a perfect recipe for Rookie of the Year."
The honchos at PFW obviously have a healthy respect for Southeastern Conference football because Mayo is among four SEC alumni pegged as the leading Rookie of the Year candidates by PFW's six top editors.
The only non-SEC players the PFW brain trust projects as serious candidates for the NFL Rookie of the Year Award are a couple of Pac 10 guys – former Oregon running back Jonathan Stewart and former USC defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis.
Stewart, drafted by the Carolina Panthers, is the pick of PFW associate editor Dan Parr. Ellis, chosen by the New Orleans Saints, is the pick of PFW associate editor Michael Blunda.