Cowboys' interest growing for Mays

As soon as mock drafts started being formed for the 2010 draft, there was widespread speculation that the Dallas Cowboys would be in the hunt for USC safety Taylor Mays.

Some of that speculation waned when Dallas played well enough to slide down to the 27th pick in the first round — the common thinking was that Mays would be long gone — but now it appears that the courtship between the Cowboys and Mays is warming up again.

Mays is known as perhaps the best pure athlete at the recent NFL Combine in Indianapolis. He measured in at an enormous 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds. His 4.43 in the 40-yard dash was the best among all safeties. His 41-inch vertical jump and 10-5 broad jump were second-best at his position, and the 24 reps he mustered in the NFL-standard 225-pound bench press were tied for the second-highest total among safeties.

Dallas owner Jerry Jones has long been known for his fondness for playmaking players from marquee programs, and Mays certainly is that. His combination of speed and size is unmatched, and he can deliver bone-crushing hits.

But as teams have studied more film of him, he has taken a few shots from critics who have suggested that he can get overaggressive or take the wrong angle at times when searching for the highlight-reel hit.

That can be corrected through coaching; size and speed can not. has learned from a source with knowledge of the team's plans that if he slides because of concerns about his inconsistency, the Cowboys will consider grabbing him at the end of the first round. It is unknown whether the Cowboys would consider trading up to take him, or whether they'll have him come to Dallas for a private workout.

There are some who have suggested that Dallas will (or at least should) look at nothing other than offensive linemen and wide receivers in the first round. But safety definitely is a position of focus for the team. Strong safety Gerald Sensabaugh is a free agent and could leave, and there has been talk that free safety Ken Hamlin could be cut to alleviate the team's financial obligation.

Mays played mostly free safety at USC, and because of his size, there are some who have suggested that an NFL team could draft him and have the fastest outside linebacker in the league. But he would fit well at strong safety if Sensabaugh leaves. He's fast enough and long enough to cover just about any wide receiver or running back coming out of the backfield, and big enough to tangle with big tight ends on deep seam routes. He also is very comfortable creeping up into the box like an extra linebacker, adding to the support against the run.

In addition, many teams, including Dallas, look at Mays' rare combination of size and speed and see the potential for a real weapon on special teams, where he could line up as a gunner — a position normally blocked by small, fast players — where he could use his strength to overwhelm the smaller players asked to run with him.

Dallas might well follow the "common logic" approach and take an offensive lineman or receiver in the first round. But if he's available when Dallas picks at 27 (or if the Cowboys trade up), Mays appears to be on the Cowboys' short list of first-round candidates.

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