Falcons trade second-round pick; take safety Richie Grant, guard Jalen Mayfield

September 19, 2020 Atlanta - University of Central Florida's defensive back Richie Grant (27) and University of Central Florida's defensive back Aaron Robinson (31) try to block a pass intended to Georgia Tech's wide receiver Ahmarean Brown (2) during the second half of an NCAA college football game at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta on Saturday, September 19, 2020. UCF won 49-21 over the Georgia Tech. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

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September 19, 2020 Atlanta - University of Central Florida's defensive back Richie Grant (27) and University of Central Florida's defensive back Aaron Robinson (31) try to block a pass intended to Georgia Tech's wide receiver Ahmarean Brown (2) during the second half of an NCAA college football game at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta on Saturday, September 19, 2020. UCF won 49-21 over the Georgia Tech. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

The Falcons selected big-hitting safety Richie Grant from Central Florida with the 40th pick of the NFL draft Friday night, the eighth pick of the second round.

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The Falcons traded their second-round pick (35th overall) to the Denver Broncos to drop back five spots and pick up an additional pick in the fourth round (114th) Friday.

The Broncos used the 35th pick to select North Carolina running back Javonte Williams.

In the third round, the Falcons selected Michigan offensive lineman Jalen Mayfield, who’s 6-foot-5 and 320 pounds. He played tackle for the Wolverines, but is projected as a guard in the NFL.

The Falcons parted ways with safeties Keanu Neal, Damontae Kazee, Ricardo Allen and Sharrod Neasman this offseason. They recently signed Duron Harmon (45 NFL starts) and Erik Harris (30 starts).

In addition to Harmon and Harris, the Falcons have Jaylinn Hawkins and T.J. Green on the roster at safety.

“We’re really excited about Richie Grant,” Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot said to the team’s website. “He fits the ethos, tough, smart (and) competitive. He’ll knock the taste out of your mouth and take the ball away.”

The Falcons were expected to add to the position in the draft.

“A dog,” said Grant, when asked to describe what the Falcons were getting. “Pure and sweet. You’re going to get a dog. I’m ready to work. I never thought this could happen, but I’m forever grateful to the Atlanta organization for taking that chance on me. You are about to get a playmaker. A leader on and off the field.”

Grant played in 46 games and made 290 tackles, one sack, 17 passes defensed and 10 interceptions, five forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.

He explained his knack for showing up at the football.

“Film study,” Grant said. “Studying the right things. Trusting in my teammates. Trusting in the game plan. They all go hand in hand, but the ball just loves me though. Maybe I’ve just got a special relationship with it, I don’t know.”

Grant said that the Falcons will use him primarily at free safety.

“That’s the key to my game, being able to line up at multiple spots and still be productive in multiple spots,” Grant said. “Not just being a guy out there. I took that with me to the Senior Bowl. That was one of the things that I wanted to showcase at the Senior Bowl.

“I ended up getting (playing time) at corner. That’s a big part of my game. I pride myself on that, and film study definitely helped me get a edge in that aspect, being versatile and being able to be productive while being versatile.”

Falcons coach Arthur Smith discussed the team’s plight at safety during a pre-draft media session Wednesday

“I don’t ever think you look and say you’re set at that position,” Smith said. “It certainly helps the pieces that we’ve added to the roster going into the draft where you maybe don’t feel as desperate to reach in certain areas.”

He likes the veteran safeties they added.

“We are excited about Erik and Duron,” Smith said. “We are excited to bring those guys into our program. They are quality veterans that can play and fit our scheme. It helps. I don’t think you ever look at it and ... ever just say on paper we signed these two guys, we’re set.”

Ironically, Grant and Harris were training together. They also have been talking to each other over the past two weeks.

Allen signed with the Bengals, while Neal and Kazee reunited with former Falcons coach Dan Quinn in Dallas.

The Falcons have an opening at left guard, and right tackle Kaleb McGary has been shaky over his first two seasons in the league. Mayfield played left tackle early at Michigan and won the battle for right tackle in 2019.

“I would have no problem moving to guard,” Mayfield said.

Mayfield has some technical flaws, but makes up for that with raw power.

“During the meetings, I told them that I was confident in playing all five positions,” Mayfield said. “I’m somebody who is a very smart kid. I can adapt to anything that’s thrown at me. I feel like the more versatile that I am, the better chance I have to get on the field right away. I’m coming in with an open mind. I don’t know where I‘ll play.”

He played only two games for Michigan last season before he sustained a high ankle sprain.

“I’ve been 100 percent for a while now,” Mayfield said. “I got landed on weird in the second game.”

There likely would have to be a transition period if Mayfield moves to guard.

“I’ve never in a game taken a snap inside, but I’ve practiced inside, and I’ve been working by myself snapping the ball in case I need it,” Mayfield said.

The Falcons also have an opening at center after veteran Alex Mack did not re-sign. The Falcons drafted Matt Hennessy, a center from Temple, in the third round last season.

“They just said they liked how versatile I am,” Mayfield said. “I talked to the (offensive) line coach, and we got to talk about what I’m most comfortable at. Of course, I’m comfortable playing tackle because that’s the most recent position that I’ve played. I have been working myself on just snapping the ball just in case, giving me another opportunity to get on the field.”

AJC’S POSITION-BY-POSITION NFL DRAFT SERIES

QUARTERBACKS: How far will Justin Fields drop in draft? | Top 10 QBs

RUNNING BACKS: Plenty of prospects to pick from | Top 10 RBs

WIDE RECEIVERS: Draft deep with talent | Top 10 WRs

TIGHT ENDS: Ability to create mismatches is key | Top 10 TEs

OFFENSIVE TACKLES: A ‘nasty’ bunch | Top 10 OTs

OFFENSIVE GUARDS/CENTERS: The men in the middle | Top 10 C/OGs

END RUSHERS: Pass on this draft stock | Top 10 DEs

DEFENSIVE TACKLES: One star among lackluster block | Top 10 DTs

LINEBACKERS: Deep class for position | Top 10 LBs

CORNERBACKS: Plethora of options for first two rounds | Top 10 CBs

SAFETIES: Falcons likely will add position player | Top 10 Safeties

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