Jaylen Mahoney celebrating in Vanderbilts game against Wake Forest on Sept. 10, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Lexie Perez)
Jaylen Mahoney celebrating in Vanderbilt’s game against Wake Forest on Sept. 10, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Lexie Perez)
Lexie Perez

2024 NFL Draft Profile: Jaylen Mahoney

After five productive seasons on West End, the versatile defensive back will hope to hear his name called at the 2024 NFL Draft.

Safety. Slot corner. Team captain. Honorable mention All-SEC. Honor Roll student. After five seasons sporting Vanderbilt’s black and gold, defensive back Jaylen Mahoney has accrued his fair share of titles. This upcoming weekend, he’ll hope to add another one to his résumé: Member of the 2024 NFL Draft Class.

The Rock Hill, S.C. native and three-star recruit hit the ground running as a Commodore, seeing the field in 12 games during the 2019 season and being one of just five true freshmen to see action. An interception against Tennessee and a five-tackle showing against South Carolina were the first signs of the great things Mahoney’s Vanderbilt career would hold. 

The defensive back turned in another productive season as a sophomore before breaking out in his junior year on West End. Mahoney started all 12 games in 2021 and finished the year third on the team in tackles (53) and interceptions (2) operating as a nickel corner. As Mahoney found himself operating in the more aggressive scheme of new coach Clark Lea in 2021, the safety’s capabilities as a dynamic, downhill playmaker shined. 

Mahoney was rewarded for his breakout season when he was named a team captain before the 2022 season. Despite mostly playing at slot corner for his first three seasons on West End, Mahoney was given the challenge of sliding back to safety as a senior. Mahoney rose to the challenge, accruing 55 tackles and seven tackles for loss across 11 games.

His time on West End wasn’t over yet, though, as Mahoney decided to return for a fifth year of eligibility, as granted by the NCAA’s COVID-19 waiver. Mahoney turned in his best season yet in 2023, ultimately finishing second on the team in tackles (59), first in pass break-ups (six) and fifth amongst SEC safeties in Pro Football Focus’ run defense grade (80.8).

Mahoney’s impressive 2023 season led to the veteran being named an honorable mention to the All-SEC team. As he continues to ascend as a player, let’s take a look at where Mahoney could land following this weekend’s draft.

Numbers and Measurements

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 188 lbs.

40-yard dash: 4.54 seconds

Bench press: 19 reps

Broad jump: 10’00”

While none of Mahoney’s measurements are eye-popping, he meets all the requisite size and athletic numbers for what you would expect from an NFL-caliber safety. Mahoney narrowly misses out on the “ideal” safety measurements of over 6’0” and 200 lbs. — the range of Pittsburgh Steeler Minkah Fitzpatrick, for example — but plays with more than enough physicality to overcome the small size deficit. 


Mahoney’s 40-yard dash time would slide in right below the median of the 20 safeties at this year’s NFL combine (4.55s) and his bench press numbers would be just three off of Wake Forest’s Malik Mustapha, who led the safeties with 22. Safe to say, Mahoney’s measurements will not keep him off of an NFL roster. Let’s look at what can get him on one.


More than anything else, the thing that pops off the screen when scouting Mahoney is how elite he is at getting downhill and making plays in space. Despite starting most plays in the defensive backfield, Mahoney was one of Vanderbilt’s best tacklers every season; he’s great at both shedding blocks and attacking ball carriers in space. A career-high 16 tackles against Georgia this past season showed very clearly the type of defensive playmaker Mahoney can be. Regardless of his size measurements, Mahoney will bring an extra layer of physicality to whatever roster he lands on.

Mahoney’s physicality and intelligence when flying towards ball carriers similarly helps him in coverage, where he uses those tools to stick with receivers. As a result of spending his first few seasons at nickel cornerback, Mahoney has a solid ability to keep track of short and intermediate routes that require him to move laterally. Similarly, he uses his hands well in coverage — something that will be needed as a slightly undersized safety matching up against tight ends and bigger slot receivers. His versatility in college should help him adjust well to whatever his role is at the next level. 

Though it may mean a bit less compared to his physical attributes, it’s worth noting the leadership capabilities that Mahoney can bring to a locker room, as well. Now out of eligibility, Mahoney leaves Vanderbilt as a 2x captain and a 3x SEC Academic Honor Roll student. Off the field, Mahoney has taken care of his business as a Commodore and should be a welcome addition to any NFL locker room.

Areas for Improvement

Despite being a plus as a run defender from the safety position, Mahoney’s average coverage skills may prevent him from seeing the field early on in his career. While he uses his physicality well as routes develop, Mahoney often struggles in press coverage and does not always have the speed to keep up with his assignment off of the line. Similarly, being over-aggressive with his hands in coverage can sometimes lead to penalties downfield.

Additionally, Mahoney can stand to improve slightly as a playmaker when it comes to taking the ball away. While no NFL coach will scoff at his inclination to make sure-handed tackles and pass deflections, Mahoney was responsible for just one forced fumble and four interceptions across his five years at Vanderbilt. Becoming a bit more of a ball hawk, whether that’s getting better at disguising his coverage or being more aggressive at the point of contact, should accelerate his playing time from the jump.

NFL Comparison

Cameron Bynum, Minnesota Vikings

Mahoney and Bynum share a number of similarities, with the most obvious being that both players made the switch from cornerback to safety due to their average athletic ability and size; Bynum entered the draft at 6’0”, 196 lbs.

Bynum was also a two-team captain in college and left Cal as a player who was known for his work defending the run and playing above his size. While Mahoney profiles as a worse player than Bynum in coverage, the Vanderbilt alumnus should seek to emulate Bynum’s ability to use his physicality and intelligence to carve out a role for himself at the next level.

Draft Prediction

Pick 236 (Round 7), Jacksonville Jaguars

Following the loss of safety Rayshawn Jenkins over the offseason, the Jaguars are looking particularly slim in the defensive backfield ahead of next season. Darnell Savage and Andre Cisco should be able to make up a solid starting duo, but Jacksonville is in need of depth at the safety position. With great character in the locker room and the physicality to make an impact, Mahoney would be a great fit for the Jaguars.

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About the Contributors
Anish Mago
Anish Mago, Former Deputy Sports Editor
Anish Mago ('24) is from West Windsor, N.J., and is studying economics and political science in the College of Arts and Science. He previously served as a staff writer for the Sports section. When not writing for The Hustler, Anish enjoys playing basketball and rooting for all Philly sports. He can be reached at .
Lexie Perez
Lexie Perez, Graphics Editor
Lexie Perez (‘26) is from Northern Virginia and is majoring in climate studies and human and organizational development and minoring in business in the College of Arts and Science. She enjoys listening to 70s and 80s pop music, doing the daily Wordle and rooting for the Nashville Predators and Cincinnati Bengals. She can be reached at [email protected].
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