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Is Mays 'Taylor'-made to replace Niners' Lewis?

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Dan Arkush

darkush@pfwmedia.com
Executive editor

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Posted April 23, 2010 @ 9:16 p.m. ET
By Dan Arkush

You have to love the symmetry.

With the 49th overall pick in the 2010 draft, the 49ers selected USC's Taylor Mays, who was rated as the fifth-best safety available in the draft by PFW.

There were many who thought Mays, the Trojans' leading tackler in 2009 with a chiseled body that would make Adonis jealous, was a no-brainer first-round pick.

But for whatever reason, he fell into the Niners' laps in the second round.

Mays was asked in a conference call with the local media if it was a bittersweet day because he dropped into Round Two.

"It's bittersweet, but I wanted to play for a coach like coach (Mike) Singletary, for a team like the 49ers, a team that's physical, that plays defense that will fight you and punch you in the face," Mays said.

"I understand that I fell, but I'd rather fall and go to a team where I have a better chance of having a better quality career than go earlier and go to a team that doesn't have as good of a chance to win. It's tough, but at the same time, I can't complain. I'm in a much better situation than most people are in. I can't wait to get started."

Look for Mays to get started at strong safety, where he shapes up as a possible replacement for veteran Michael Lewis, a ninth-year veteran with a history of concussions whose specialty is run support.

Lewis has been among the team's leading tacklers every year he has been with the Niners. But he is not nearly as good in coverage as he is defending the run, and his physical style of play results in him absorbing as much punishment as he gives out.

The big question that needs to be answered is whether Mays can be a complete all-around safety or solely an in-the-box safety.

"Well, that's what we're going to find out over these next couple of months and years is whether I can play in the box or deep," Mays said.

"I know what I can do and know what I'm capable of doing. I think it's just a misconception that I can't do a lot of things as a safety. That's why I've got coaches that are willing to work with me. I talked to these San Francisco coaches and they said they were going to teach me and show me, and I am going to be the best safety I can be and take it all in. And once I do that, there's nothing that can stop me."

Consider those comments music to Mike Singletary's ears.

For the most authoritative NFL draft news and free-agency analysis, visit ProFootballWeekly.com.

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