There are few commodities more sought after at in the NFL than an offensive tackle prospect with the physical traits to be a starter.
While teams love to find pro-ready offensive tackles in the NFL Draft, they often have to look at prospects’ traits and discern what they will, or could, become. Sometimes this pays off and more times it doesn’t, but the potential rewards keep them trying. The rewards for teams that invest the time and energy in developing prospects who are more potential than production can be massive.
Junior Jalen Mayfield of Michigan is going to be one of those prospects on whom some team is going to have to take a chance. He has many of the traits that scouts and coaches like to see in highly drafted tackle prospects. But with just 18 games — 15 starts — to his name, the technical side of Mayfield’s game is unrefined.
Does he have what it takes to be a starting offensive tackle in the NFL?
Prospect: Jalen Mayfield
Games Watched: vs. Penn State (2019), vs. Ohio State (2019), vs. Wisconsin (2019), vs. Alabama (2019)
Red Flags: Ankle (2020)
Best: Size, play strength, athleticism, competitive toughness
Worst: Experience, technique, consistency
Projection: Developmental offensive tackle with starting upside.
Michigan right tackle Jalen Mayfield has a good blend of size and athleticism to play the offensive tackle position at the NFL level.
Mayfield has good size and is listed at 6-foot-5, 320 pounds with good thickness in his upper and lower body. He also shows a natural athleticism, settling easily into his stance before the snap. Mayfield aligned as Michigan’s right tackle in his sophomore and junior seasons, and acquitted himself well on the edge.
He is a natural “knee bender” who consistently plays with good hip and pad level, rarely lunging at defenders. Mayfield is able to maintain his leverage throughout the play, and shows good hip level in both pass sets and in run blocking. He is also a solid athlete for the position, with good lateral agility and short area quickness to keep up with most speed rushers.
Mayfield generally deals well with stunts along the line of scrimmage, picking up and passing off defenders without getting tied up or opening rush lanes. He also shows great competitive toughness, looking for work when he doesn’t have anyone to block and flashing a nasty streak when run blocking.
Mayfield is a good run blocker in man-gap, power schemes. He fires off the ball hard, exploding into defenders and routinely creating movement at the line of scrimmage. And even when he can’t drive the defender off the ball, he does a good job of turning them perpendicular and sealing them off from the play. Mayfield’s play strength allows him to sustain blocks and anchor against power, even if he is at a technical disadvantage.
While Mayfield shows the natural traits scouts and coaches covet at the tackle position, he is very inexperienced. With just 15 starts at the collegiate level, Mayfield’s game is unrefined at best. He largely got by at the collegiate level on size and natural athleticism, and his hands have a tendency to be late, low, or wide. Mayfield frequently fails to win inside leverage and too often gives up his own chest plate.
He can also be inconsistent in his footwork, at times being smooth and balanced, while other times appearing staccato and choppy on similar pass sets.
Mayfield suffered a high ankle sprain late in the 2020 season and teams might want to take a second look at his medical reports to make sure he has made a full recovery without lingering issues.
Overall Grade: 8.0 - This is a developmental prospect with a high ceiling and the potential to be a regular starter with some development.
Jalen Mayfield projects as a developmental offensive tackle with the upside to be a regular starter at the NFL level.
Mayfield’s most direct route to the field would probably be to stay at the right tackle position where he has the most experience, and to land in an offense which uses a man-gap blocking scheme. He is a very inexperienced prospect, and shortening his learning curve will be key to getting the most out of him early in his career.
Mayfield has all the traits to be a capable offensive tackle at the NFL level, which will likely get him drafted relatively highly. However, he would be best served to land in a situation where he is allowed a year to develop. Mayfield flashes the ability to play with smooth, balanced footwork and to use his hands to control defenders, but he hasn’t yet reached the level of unconscious competence as a technician. As a result, his technique can falter, and while he was big enough and athletic enough to hold up in college, NFL caliber pass rushers will capitalize on those issues.
Some teams could view Mayfield as a guard, and his size, play strength, and natural leverage would likely play well on the inside, but he should be given the chance to earn a role as a tackle before that move is made. If a team is able to have the patience to develop Mayfield, there’s a good chance their investment will pay off handsomely.