Khalil Mack already figured to be a top pick in the 2014 NFL draft. On Friday, though, he received a major endorsement from Mike Mayock.
Speaking to KFAN 100.3 in Minneapolis, the NFL Network analyst said that the former Buffalo Bulls linebacker isn't just the best defensive player on the board—he's the best, period.
Per Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk:
“He’s one of the best two or three players in this draft,” Mayock said. “I’m going to tell you right now, I’d take him with the first pick.”
“Khalil Mack can play anywhere in the front,” Mayock said. “If you put the tape on against Ohio State, he dominates Ohio State like nobody I’ve ever seen dominate them. He’s explosive off the edge, he’s tough, he’s twitchy, he’s got a little edge about him. When I watch him on tape I feel like he’s pissed off at the world, and I like that. Then you put on a tape, I think it was Kent State, and he drops into coverage like a safety, reads the quarterback’s eyes, undercuts a route, one-handed interception.”
Mack was asked about Mayock's evaluation (via Tim Graham of the Buffalo News):
"Mike Mayock's the man," Mack said. "I want to prove him right. I'm working hard. I've been working hard this past five, six weeks. I'm ready to grind and get out there and work out."
This year's draft is bereft of that one transcendent player that everybody can see is the best in the class, like Andrew Luck was in 2012. Jake Matthews, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, Sammy Watkins, Blake Bortles, and Greg Robinson all have slight flaws that give you pause in terms of putting them at the top of the board.
Where will Khalil Mack be selected in the 2014 draft?
That means you can choose any number of stars and make a salient argument that they are the top prospect available.
If you would've been told earlier that Mayock favored a defensive player as No. 1 overall, you would've guessed Jadeveon Clowney was his choice. That's arguably what's most surprising about what he said.
Clowney is a better pass-rusher and a freak athlete. He's the kind of player that comes along once every generation.
Mack, on the other hand, is physically gifted, but he's a bit undersized at 6'3" and 248 pounds. There's also the question as to whether he can become a more consistent tackler.
None of that is to say that Mack doesn't have a case to be No. 1 himself.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller put the star linebacker at No. 8 to the Minnesota Vikings in his most recent "Scouting Notebook," but that's more of a statement to team needs and other outside factors than to Mack's talent level.
Back in January, Miller did include Mack on his list of "instant-impact players":
Sammy Watkins is up there with Bridgewater, Jake Matthews, Jadeveon Clowney and Khalil Mack as this draft's instant-impact players— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 4, 2014
ESPN's Todd McShay is of the opinion that Mack is a better prospect that Anthony Barr, whom some believe to be the best linebacker in the draft:
Studying LB Khalil Mack after watching Anthony Barr. Barr has length adv but Mack more explosive, versatile FB player. Mack is a finisher!— Todd McShay (@McShay13) February 11, 2014
Mayock no doubt went out on a limb when he declared that Khalil Mack is the best player in the 2014 draft. It's a claim not without merit, though, and in the long run, he may be proven correct.
For now, though, it would appear Mack still has a lot of work to do if he's to be seriously considered as the No. 1 pick in the draft.