USC’s Taylor Mays: fast and smart

Some things we’re hearing around the NFL about the upcoming NFL draft:

*So much was made of USC safety Taylor Mays and his impressive 40 times at this year’s combine, but the one number I’ve heard that impressed some NFL executives as much if not more is the 22 he scored on the Wonderlic test. There were concerns with sources I talked to about Mays’ overall intelligence, so his solid Wonderlic performance was another reason he was one of the clear winners in Indianapolis.

*Tennessee’s Dan Williams and Alabama’s Terrence Cody are considered the draft’s top two 3-4-nose tackle prospects, according to most people I’ve talked to. However, after that, it looks like North Carolina’s Cam Thomas is beginning to separate himself from the rest of the pack as the third-best nose. Thomas showed extremely well for himself at the Senior Bowl and proved he was a better athlete than given credit for. It wouldn’t be out of the question to see him come off the board sometime in round two.

*One guy who has created some buzz during pro day season is small-schools wideout Jeremy Horne. The 6-2, 200-pound Massachusetts standout ran as low as 4.39 on some stopwatches last week. He still has a long way to go as far as getting drafted, but his size/speed numbers are intriguing, and he should at least get a shot as a priority free agent after the draft.

*Another prospect whose name keeps popping up during postseason workouts is Indiana linebacker Matt Mayberry. On tape, Mayberry isn’t real physical and lacks ideal instincts, but boy, can he run sideline to sideline. And from sources I’ve talked to, he was able to run as low as 4.49-4.51 at the Indiana pro day and has the kind of speed that’s tough to ignore. I wasn’t a big fan of his based on his play last season, but for a linebacker to run like that, you have to think some team will be willing to take a shot on him late in the draft.

*Finally, as the NFP’s Joe Fortenbaugh reported Monday, Clemson standout C.J. Spiller recorded the worst Wonderlic score of any running back at this year’s combine with a 10 out of a possible 50. But don’t be alarmed by that number. The running back position is one spot where natural instincts rule all, and you either have it or you don’t. Spiller may not be the most “book smart” guy in the draft, but he still has the football savvy to be a dynamic threat in the NFL. And for the record, Chris Johnson also reportedly scored a 10 on his Wonderlic in 2008, and it seems to have worked out just fine for him.

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