Interest in Mays is legitimate

If the Dallas Cowboys aren't hoping to draft USC safety Taylor Mays, they sure are putting up a convincing act.

The Cowboys were one of several teams to meet with the 6-foot-3, 230-pounder, and plan to meet with him again before next week's draft. By most accounts, Mays' stock is rising as the draft approaches. Once thought to be a lock for the first round, Mays slipped in the eyes of many because of the perception that he prefers highlight-style plays, sometimes at the risk of missing routine ones.

But in recent weeks, most have said he is back in the first round on many teams' draft boards, so in order to get Mays, the Cowboys likely will have to spend their first-round pick or acquire another. Acquiring another is a costly proposition, especially when there is growing speculation that the Cowboys will try to trade down or trade players to pick up additional choices, but two sources have confirmed to that the Cowboys' interest in Mays is genuine.

Mays does have shocking athletic ability. He's enormous for a safety, and absurdly fast — his 4.43 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine was the fastest time posted by any defensive back. Only four players at any position ran faster.

The very attribute that caused some critics to downgrade Mays — his eagerness for the highlight-reel hits — also makes him the kind of player Dallas owner Jerry Jones loves; Jones not only wants his team to win, but he loves star players. He wants his players to outscore their opponent, but he also wants them to look good in the process.

The Cowboys cut starting free safety Ken Hamlin a couple of weeks ago, and there is a danger that starting strong safety Gerald Sensabaugh could follow suit, although it's also very possible that Sensabaugh re-signs and slides over to free safety. Should that happen, Mays would be an ideal candidate to fill in.

As the draft approaches, most team officials say nothing to people outside the organization about their plans, and of those who do, many are lying.

But the meeting the Cowboys have arranged with Mays is a legitimate indicator of the team's strong interest. It no longer is the time for teams to be conducting cursory interviews and workouts with players who might or might not make their draft wish lists.

Whether or not Dallas takes Mays remains to be seen and of course depends on what other teams choose to do. But there is no question the team is very interested.

Mays would be arguably the most athletic safety in team history if he ends up in Dallas. There will be a learning curve, to be sure, but the potential is there to become a very solid NFL player.

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