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Jalen Mayfield showing valued versatility along Falcons front

Third-round NFL Draft pick can work at guard, challenging for right tackle spot

Atlanta Falcons offensive lineman Jalen Mayfield #77 prepares to run a drill during organized team activities in Phase III of the Atlanta Falcons offseason program on June 2, 2021.

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Jalen Mayfield played tackle at the University of Michigan, but many thought he would move inside at the pro level.

Turns out the third-round NFL Draft pick can played inside and out, a trait valued by the Falcons coaching staff.

He seemed set to compete for an insecure left guard spot, but he's not doing battle there to start AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp. He has been working at right tackle with Kaleb McGary currently on the physically unable to perform list.

Mayfield will challenge for a spot outside, leaving coaches with some decisions to make as the preseason progresses.

"We know what he played in college from when we evaluated him, but we think his skill set gives him a chance inside as well," head coach Arthur Smith said. "It depends on the health of our team. Is he going to earn that spot out there at right tackle? If not, we have to make the right decision for him. We don't want to stunt his growth, too. If he's not going to play right tackle, he has to be able to play inside. He has to be able to play multiple spots."

Versatility is prized among offensive linemen, especially those in reserve roles. Backup tackles often must be able to swing back and forth. Being able to move from guard to center, as Josh Andrews can, is another plus.

Having someone like Mayfield who can play guard and tackle will be key moving forward. If he develops well, he could man several starting spots and shore up a weak spot up front. If he's a reserve, he can fill in most anywhere as a sixth man.

"Versatility is huge," Smith said. "There are a lot of guys who have made long careers being able to play multiple spots."

A largely unsettled offensive line – right guard Chris Lindstrom and left tackle Jake Matthews are the only two locks – will be a position group to watch as it works through the preseason. Where Mayfield fits remains uncertain, but he gives the Falcons options while trying to spread the best five linemen across the front.

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