Taylor Mays is a tenacious, game-changing defender who can be used in multiple ways. He’s a hard-hitting presence in the secondary and immediately recognizes the action. He takes good angles in coverage and works well with his teammates. He moves well laterally and positions himself to deliver a knockout punch. He plays aggressively against the run, sheds blocks nicely and wraps up at the point of attack bringing the ball carrier down on initial contact. He plays sideline-to-sideline and is able to cover a large area with his outstanding agility and quickness.
Draft Projection: 1st Round
Jahvid Best is an electrifying player who is a threat to score from any angle on the field. He’s a patient ball carrier that waits for blocks to develop and uses his excellent vision to find a crease. He possesses a tremendous burst, sets up defenders nicely, freezes them with his shiftiness and instantly cuts back for a long gain. He’s deceptively strong and runs with great balance and body control. He has a knack for creating plays when nothing is available, always looking for positive yards. He’s a solid receiver out of the backfield who immediately turns up field looking for pay dirt. Best is the complete package, and he even shows a willingness to block in pass protection.Draft Projection: 1st – 2nd Round
HEAD 2 HEAD
USC and California play each other every year, and on Saturday it will be the fourth time that Mays faces the Golden Bears, while it’s Best’s third time to try and solve the vaunted Trojans defense. Mays always gets up for this game and historically does well, but Best usually struggles against USC’s speed.
In the three previous matchups between the two teams, USC is 3 – 0 and Mays has accumulated 21 tackles, an interception and defended seven passes. Best, on the other hand, has only faced USC twice, and in both of those games he’s failed to showcase the ability he’s displayed against other teams. In the two games against USC, Best has totaled 16 carries for 48 yards and no touchdowns.Cal is coming off of a humiliating 42 – 3 loss to Oregon where Best had his worst performance of the year rushing for 55 yards on 16 carries. But overall, Best is off to a tremendous start. He’s carried the ball 69 times for 467 yards and eight touchdowns; he’s also caught nine passes for 73 yards and a touchdown. Mays returned to the lineup last week against Washington State, after missing his first career game against Washington, a game in which USC lost 16 – 13, with a knee injury. Mays hasn’t collected an interception or a sack thus far, but he’s been solid overall recording 18 tackles in three games.
The four teams that will be at Saturday’s game all run a 3-4 defense, and in this contest, there are many players who fit well in that scheme. But of all the prospects, Mays is the most intriguing, because in a 3-4 he could be converted into an outside linebacker. At 6-foot-3, 235 pounds, Mays has the prototypical size to play the position, and even though he does register a lot of sacks or interceptions from the safety position, he has the skill set to be a successful rush linebacker at the next level.
Mays will be a top-ten selection in the 2010 draft, and there’s a possibility he could be selected in the top-five. And with the Browns, Chiefs and Dolphins all starting the season at 0 – 3, it’s possible that one of those teams will select the hard-hitting defender next April. As for Best, there will be interest from all the teams in attendance, but since he’s only a junior, it’s unknown if he will declare for the draft.
The two teams that will probably have the most interest in Best are the Browns and Patriots. The Browns selected James Davis in the 6th round this year and have high hopes for his future. But during his collegiate career at Clemson, he was most effective sharing the spotlight with C.J. Spiller, who added an explosive dimension to the offense, where Davis added the strength and toughness. The Patriots have been disappointed with the development of Laurence Maroney, who’s battled numerous injuries the last two years and hasn’t lived up to his potential since his impressive rookie season. Adding a young elusive weapon like Best in the Patriots backfield will give them an added threat that the opposition has to game plan for and would take a lot of pressure off of Tom Brady and the passing attack.
In addition to Mays and Best, here’s a list of prospects – in ranked order – from each team that scouts will focus on during Saturday’s game:
1. Everson Griffen, DE
2. Michael Morgan, OLB
3. Kristofer O’Dowd, C
4. Damian Williams, WR
5. Joe McKnight, RB
6. Malcolm Smith, OLB
7. Stanley Havilli, FB
8. Zack Heberer, OG
9. Marshall Jones, CB
10. Mitch Mustain, QB
11. Ronald Johnson, WR
12. Hebron Fangupo, DT
13. C.J. Gable, RB
14. Butch Lewis, OT
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999. Steuber’s features are published across the Scout.com network and on FoxSports.com. If you wish to contact Chris Steuber, email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also now follow Chris Steuber on Twitter.