The 2021 NFL Draft season is finally upon us. Football, for now, is over. All eyes will turn to the offseason as 32 franchises attempt to build their teams up to championship-caliber squads.
Among those teams will be the Jacksonville Jaguars, who hold 11 picks in this season’s draft -- including the No. 1 overall pick. The Jaguars are entering a new era under Head Coach Urban Meyer, and the 2021 draft will serve as a catalyst to the Jaguars’ rebuild moving into the future.
As we march closer and closer to April’s draft, we will look at individual draft prospects and how they would potentially fit with the Jaguars. Instead of looking at any negatives, we are going to look at what the players do well and if they could match what the Jaguars need at the specific role or position.
In this edition, we take a look at Michigan offensive tackle Jalen Mayfield, who is currently mocked to the Jaguars in the first round at the fourth-highest rate according to Grinding The Mocks. Mayfield has consistently seen his name toward the end of the first round in mock drafts, and it appears many have made a connection between him and the Jaguars.
Does Mayfield make sense for the Jaguars at pick No. 25 or at any other spot in the draft? We examine below.
A four-star high school offensive line prospect, Mayfield was the fourth-ranked player in all of Michigan before he entered college. He was initially committed to Minnesota before pulling his commitment and eventually deciding on the Wolverines.
Mayfield (6-foot-5, 320 pounds) wasn't redshirted as a freshman and was used as a depth player early on in his career, appearing in three games at left tackle. He got his first chance as a full-time starter in 2019, however, and never let go of the job.
As a true sophomore, Mayfield started 13 games at right tackle and faced players such as Chase Young and Yetur Gross-Matos, giving him a season with plenty of quality opponents to evaluate him against.
Mayfield was set to once again set to be Michigan's starter at right tackle before opting out to declare for the NFL draft after the Big Ten postponed the season in August. He returned to start two more games at right tackle once the Big Ten's season was reinstated, but he enters the NFL with just 15 collegiate starts to his name.
What Jalen Mayfield Does Well
There isn't much that Mayfield truly "struggled" with at Michigan. He was a consistently solid player throughout his tenure as a starter and even fared as well against Chase Young as any college offensive tackle not named Rashawn Slater.
The first thing that is noticeable about where Mayfield wins, however, is his impressive strength and torque. He showed the ability to simply toss defenders around at will when he had the leverage advantage, doing a great job of finishing blocks with his upper body strength. He is a violent finisher who blocks through the whistle and will put defensive tackles, ends, and linebackers all in the ground when all goes right.
Mayfield excels at the second level and when asked to operate in space. He plays with terrific control and balance when exploding out of his stance and aiming at a moving target, rarely missing his aiming point. He wastes no steps and looks fluid before getting proper position to wall defenders off from the play.
As a pass protector, Mayfield shows a good ability to be "get in the way" type of blocker. He doesn't have good arm length and his anchor against speed-to-power moves is hit or miss, but he compensates for this with efficient angles in his pass sets and agile feet to react to inside or outside moves.
Mayfield's hands after he makes contact are also a big plus. He is the definition of a hand fighter at offensive tackle, effectively using his hands and upper body strength to control defensive ends and remain engaged.
How Jalen Mayfield Would Fit With the Jaguars
This one is a bit tough. Mayfield projects as a solid starting offensive lineman to the NFL, but the Jaguars may be one team he doesn't have a clear fit. This isn't an indictment on Mayfield as a prospect, but instead is the reality for the Jaguars' roster construction.
For starters, the Jaguars' biggest need on the offensive line is at left tackle. Mayfield is already considered a guard by some of the draft's top evaluators, such as The Athletic's Dane Brugler. I am of the opinion that Mayfield can still be a strong starter at offensive tackle, but his lack of top-tier attributes in terms of length and ability to protect his outside shoulder do create some projection.
Outside of his skill set, Mayfield just doesn't seem to fit the mold of what the Jaguars would want at left tackle in Trevor Lawrence's rookie season. Ideally, a veteran left starter is in place to protect the No. 1 pick's blindside. If not, then the best-case scenario is to get an experienced college left tackle who is more or less pro-ready.
While Mayfield is immensely talented, he has just 15 college starts under his belt in three seasons, with all of those coming at right tackle and not left tackle. Perhaps the Jaguars could think he could make a smooth transition from right tackle to left tackle, but it would be the first time he would be at the position since he was a freshman backup.
With this all said, Mayfield is an interesting option if the Jaguars move on from left guard Andrew Norwell. There is still some projection in moving a player from right tackle to left guard, but Mayfield legitimately has Pro Bowl upside as a guard in the right scheme.
Mayfield is a good case of a player who is entering the draft as a solid prospect but just doesn't quite fit the Jaguars.
We are likely seeing him mocked to Jacksonville so much since he is in that range of offensive lineman who are projected to be picked between the mid 20s and early 30s, but there are better fits in the draft if the Jaguars want a left tackle.
Mayfield is a prospect I am high on, but picking him at No. 25 would be a strange move. Picking him at No. 33 could be more tolerable, but the questions about his fit would clearly remain.
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