USC safety would have fit well in the AFC West

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

Taylor Mays' decision to go back to USC for his senior season is a hit to the AFC West. Mays is needed in the AFC West.

The division is missing a nasty, defense-changing safety.

Mays, a teeth-rattling bad man from USC, has a chance to be the next great safety in the NFL but it will have to wait another year. Any one of the four AFC West teams could use Mays.
They all could use a game changer.

Look at the four teams remaining in the playoffs: They all have standout safeties. Baltimore has Ed Reed, Pittsburgh has Troy Polamalu, Philadelphia has Brian Dawkins and Arizona has Adrian Wilson. All for players are major reasons why their respective defenses are so special.

It used to be that safety play wasn't as valued as other positions. Not anymore. Get yourself an impact safety and your defense instantly improves. Players like Reed and Polamalu affect their units so much because they are so smart and instinctive. They intimidate with their hard-hitting tackles and dominate with their mental aptitude.

Mays has this type of potential and there is not a team in the AFC West that wouldn't benefit from taking him.

Denver, which also has other pressing needs, may have ended up taking him at No. 12. The Broncos coveted Reed and Polamalu out of college, and with the retirement of John Lynch don't have an enforcer at the back of their defense. Mays would change that.

San Diego likely would have also seriously considered Mays with the No. 16 pick. The Chargers love Eric Weddle, who just finished his second season. Teamed with Mays, the two would make a formidable pairing for years to come. It could be just the move that gets the Chargers over the hump.

The AFC West needs a player like Mays to catch up with the NFL's elite. But it will have to wait another year to get a crack at him.