2021 NFL draft prospects: Michigan OT Jalen Mayfield

Eric Edholm
·4-min read
Eric Edholm's criteria for grading NFL draft prospects. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)
Eric Edholm's criteria for grading NFL draft prospects. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)

Michigan OT Jalen Mayfield

6-foot-5, 325 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.93 — potential starter

TL;DR scouting report: Inexperienced blocker with fascinating upside if he's developed properly

Games watched: Iowa (2019), Notre Dame (2019), Ohio State (2019), Minnesota (2020), Michigan State (2020),

The skinny: A 4-star Rivals recruit, Mayfield originally committed to Minnesota but reneged once the Wolverines offered. He appeared in only three games in 2018 as a reserve left tackle but preserved an extra year of eligibility by not appearing in more. In 2019, he was a breakout performer for Michigan, starting 13 games at right tackle and earning honorable mention all-conference. Mayfield originally opted out of the 2020 season when the Big Ten initially called off its season but returned when play resumed, starting two games before missing the rest of the season with a high-ankle sprain. Following the season, Mayfield declared early for the 2021 NFL draft.

Upside: Big, athletic frame — carries his weight well and moves well on the field. Has natural power that can’t be taught, with room to get even stronger. Good feet to handle stunts and blitzes, showing the ability to recover and adjust late. Good initial quickness of the snap. Testing numbers don’t do his movement skill proper justice.

Nice feet to handle quickness and mirror speedy pass rushers. Natural feel for pass-blocking angles and keeps his head on a swivel. Rarely seems caught off guard when protecting the quarterback. Only three sacks allowed in 500-plus pass-block snaps.

Effective on the move — can gain positioning to reach block and turn defenders back inside. Good screen blocker who gets up to the second level in a hurry and generally can hit his marks properly.

Run-blocking prowess is evident. Combines quickness and power to shoot and drive through bigger base ends. Creates nice running holes and can put his opponents in spots they don’t want to be. Fires off the ball, initiates contact and churns feet through contact. Effective in gap and zone blocking.

Brings a physical edge. Plays through the whistle and will dog defenders through the snap. Has the potential to be a tone setter for a line. Multiple pancakes on his 2020 tape — looked primed for a big season prior to injury. Confidence and defensive mentality really came out in those two games.

Experience at both OT spots and took practice reps at guard. Only three career penalties.

CHAMPAIGN, IL - OCTOBER 12: Jalen Mayfield #73 of the Michigan Wolverines is seen during the game against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Memorial Stadium on October 12, 2019 in Champaign, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Michigan OT Jalen Mayfield is a player to watch if he develops. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Young player with plenty of room for growth — won’t turn 21 years old until May. There have been examples of past Michigan offensive linemen in recent years (Mason Cole, Graham Glasgow, Michael Onwenu) who have turned out better pros than they appeared in college.

Downside: Middling testing numbers in the vertical jump (28.5 inches) and 3-cone drill (7.86 seconds), and sub-par results in the broad jump (96 inches), 40-yard dash (5.31 seconds) and short shuttle (4.91 seconds). Shorter arms (32 5/8 inches) could result in a move inside.

Had some trouble dropping an anchor at times in 2019 — got walked back into his QB’s lap a few times. Upper-body strength doesn’t appear in line with his core/lower-body power. Could use a year in an NFL weight program.

Will lunge and overextend — whiffs on some targets. Plays with a narrow base at times that can cause balance issues. Hands and punch timing could use a cleanup — misfires and mistimes his attack. Gives up his chest too easily.

Could sustain better on movement blocks — will let defenders off the hook occasionally. Plays on his toes and gets out over his skis too much. Was all out of sorts against Ohio State in 2019 — spun through the blender a few times.

Inexperienced — only 15 starts with barely 1,000 college game snaps. No game snaps at guard. Rawness and lack of control in his setup and approach. Might need to be an OL coach’s pet project before he’s ready.

Best-suited destination: Essentially a one-year starter, Mayfield would have an awakening if he was thrust into a lineup immediately. He might be best served spending a year as a swing tackle or receiving some work inside before Mayfield is given a starting shot.

Perhaps a team that has 2022 free agents along the offensive line (such as the Washington Football Team, Jacksonville Jaguars, Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints) could give Mayfield a redshirt season of sorts and receive a bigger return on investment down the road. The Pittsburgh Steelers are also said to be interested in his services.

Did you know: Mayfield’s father, Brian, was a receiving tight end in high school before moving to offensive tackle at Ferris State, where he played from from 1989 to 1993. Brian also coached Jalen on both sides of the ball growing up.

Player comp: He’s got some similarities to former Seahawks and Jets OL James Carpenter, who turned himself into a pretty solid left guard despite not always looking like the prettiest offensive lineman.

Expected draft range: Top-60 pick