49ers bolster defense on draft’s second day
SANTA CLARA – Taylor Mays comes to the San Francisco 49ers with something to prove for a rising defense that figures to be improved by his presence.
The 49ers filled one of their biggest defensive needs by selecting Mays with the No. 49 overall pick of the NFL draft Friday, landing a decorated playmaker who should fit in perfectly with the physical and aggressive style of San Francisco’s defense.
The 49ers then traded their third-round selection, No. 79 overall, to San Diego in exchange for third- and sixth-round picks and the Chargers’ fourth-round pick in 2011.
With that third-rounder, No. 91 overall, San Francisco further bolstered its defense by selecting Penn State linebacker Navorro Bowman.
Mays was a two-time All-American at USC who was considered a surefire first-round prospect entering last year. But his stock slipped during a disappointing senior season, and he fell to the 49ers with the 17th pick of the second round.
That provides added motivation for Mays, who was passed over three times in the draft by first-year Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, Mays’ coach at USC.
“I feel like I have the biggest chip on my shoulder of anybody in the draft,” Mays said. “I felt like that before the draft, but it’s just a little more amplified now. It’s not a chip to prove people wrong. It’s a chip to show what I can do, and obviously the San Francisco 49ers believed in that.”
The San Francisco defense has developed into one of the NFL’s better units in recent seasons, but the 49ers are looking to upgrade at safety after they ranked just 21st in the league last season in pass defense.
In the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Mays, the 49ers feel they have a big and athletic safety to pair with Dashon Goldson. Goldson impressed the team at free safety last year in his first season as a starter, leading San Francisco with four interceptions and ranking second on the team with 114 tackles.
Goldson became known for his big hits last year, and that’s a dimension Mays feels he also can immediately bring to the San Francisco secondary.
“I know what I bring is just physical dominance and a physical attitude,” Mays said. “That’s a defense that they already play here, a defense that will fight you and punch you in the face. That’s what I do best and I’m going to show them that I can bring it for them.”
Coach Mike Singletary also was a second-round draft pick after a stellar, All-American career at Baylor. Singletary said he did everything possible in college to be a first-round pick, but used the perceived slight as motivation to succeed during his Hall of Fame career with the Chicago Bears from 1981-1992.
Singletary sees Mays following in the same mold.
“He’s hungry, he wants to be a great football player and he wants to be a 49er,” Singletary said. “I’m excited about the upside this young man has. For us, Taylor Mays is a guy that has a ton of potential, and our job is to make sure we help him utilize it as best he can.”
Bowman, a third-team AP All-American last season, could play both inside and outside linebacker in San Francisco’s 3-4 defensive system. He will get an immediate opportunity to make an impact on special teams while the 49ers determine where he fits best on defense.
“When you look at him on film, a lot jumps out at you,” Singletary said. “He’s always going to the football. Right now, he’s going to add depth, help out on special teams and work his tail off to learn what we do on defense.”
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