Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
There are a myriad of directions that the Raiders can go with this pick. The Raiders could take any player from any position and it would already be an instant upgrade over what they already have. Historically, the Raiders have been known for making out of the box picks, but I am not going to follow that precedent.
The two players that I ultimately narrowed down my choices between were Greg Robinson, the offensive tackle from Auburn, and Khalil Mack, the outside linebacker from Buffalo. Those two players were at the top of my board. The Raiders somewhat addressed their need at tackle with the signing of Donald Penn, who replaces Jared Veldeer. The Raiders also signed Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, and Antonio Smith to try to fill the void left by Lamarr Houston going to the Chicago Bears. With those signings, I was allowed to choose between, what I felt to be the best two players on my board. Despite both Robinson and Mack having the same grade, I ultimately chose Mack because he plays a position of greater need.
Mack was only a two star recruit coming out of high school from Fort Pierce, Florida and now is considered one of the top two defensive prospects in this year’s draft. The reason why he is considered one of the top prospects is because of what he has shown on the football field. On any given Saturday, Mack was the best football player that set foot on the field.
-Looks the part
-Variety of pass rush moves (i.e. swim move, bull rush, rip move)
- Versatile (played defensive end, defensive tackle in 4-3 looks, played defensive end and inside linebacker in 3-4 looks)
- Quick first step
- Great instincts
-Playmaker (4 career interceptions, 4 career recoveries, 16 career forced fumbles)
One particular play that stood out to me was when Mack was knocked to his butt by a running back that was chipping. Despite falling on his butt, Mack was quickly able to get up and shoot up field to pressure the quarterback into throwing the ball away. That play showed his sheer athleticism and quick burst.
Another positive play that stood out to me was when Mack was asked to drop into zone coverage. Mack is by no means the best cover linebacker, but his athleticism makes up for his lack of knowledge of coverages. Mack was able to read the quarterback’s eyes and pluck the ball easily for an interception. On the interception return, Mack looked smooth. In fact, he made a defender miss and went into the end zone for a pick six.
-Not disciplined in zone coverage
-Does not always anticipate snap correctly
-Does not set the edge well against the run at times
-Suspended for 2012 season opener for violation of team rules
Mack usually dropped into coverage about 10 times a game, so as a result, his coverage skills aren’t exactly the best. Against San Diego State, while the Aztec were in the red zone, Mack dropped into zone coverage. While he was dropping into coverage, he started to grab the extra lineman that lined up as a tight end that was going out for a pass, even when it wasn’t necessary. The quarterback ended up throwing the ball elsewhere. Mack was lucky that he wasn’t called for holding. It seemed that Mack had dropped too deep into coverage since he ended up right next to one of his team mates. It is safe to venture a guess that Mack was reasonable for the flat, since he started to go back up field after dropping too deep. There are plays in other games, including this one, where he abandons his zone when the quarterback starts to roll out to his side and starts to pursue the quarterback. By chasing down the quarterback, Mack allows the quarterback to throw passes to receivers that could sneak into the area where Mack would be in coverage. It is apparent that Mack doesn’t have a firm understanding of coverages and the proper techniques, but with coaching and film study he should be adequate at it.
Another aspect of his game that Mack needs to work on is setting the edge against the run. His game against Stony Brook was arguably the worst game he played against the run from all six videos that I watched. He allowed several runs to be bounced outside. On one particular play, the fullback came on a wham block. Mack just continued to drive into the fullback into the backfield rather than set the edge. That allowed the running back to bounce outside for a gain of about 7.
The addition of Mack would replace Houston, who left for Chicago. While in Oakland, Houston was used both as a defensive end in the 3-4 as well as an outside linebacker. Mack could then be used in a similar way as Houston, however Mack is much better suited to play outside linebacker than defensive end. In some respects, Mack could surpass Houston since Mack has way more upside than Houston does at this point in his career. Mack offers more versatility to defensive coordinator Jason Tarver. Tarver can be creative with Mack and line him up in multiple spots to confuse offenses.
Teams can talk about selecting the best player available all they want, but when they face situations where they have two prospects with similar grades with one being at a position of need, they will always choose the player at the position of need. I feel that outside linebacker is a bigger need than offensive tackle for the Raiders. People might argue that the signings of Smith, Tuck and Woodley will replace the production lost with Houston. But, I feel that all three of those players have lost a step. An argument for offensive tackle can also be made as well. However, there is more depth at the offensive tackle position in the draft than outside linebacker, so the Raiders can take a tackle in later rounds. Another position, people can argue that the Raiders should address with this pick is quarterback. However, I feel that none of the quarterbacks are worth this pick. In fact, Peter King from themmqb.com reported in his latest MMQB article that the Raiders are "strongly considering" passing on a quarterback with this pick. With the selection of Khalil Mack, the Raiders can just win, baby.
1 Houston Texans (Imp) - Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville - [Explanation]
2 St. Louis Rams (starship 007) - Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson - [Explanation]
3 Jacksonville Jaguars (sports00fan00) - Jadeveon Clowney, DE, SC - [Explanation]
4 Cleveland Browns (InHinkieWeTrust) - Johnny Manziel, QB, TAMU - [Explanation]
5 Oakland Raiders (SleepingDuck) - Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo - [Explanation]
6 Atlanta Falcons (jimmyrustler) -
7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (AnthroEagle) -
8 Minnesota Vikings (pot) -
9 Buffalo Bills (wow4444) -
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