The general consensus among scouts entering the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine, was that South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is the top defensive prospect in this year's draft class.
At least one prominent draftnik, however, believes that honor goes to University of Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack.
"It would be hard for me to take Jadeveon Clowney over Khalil Mack." - Mike Mayock— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) February 22, 2014
After the show Mack put on in Indianapolis, Mayock may have some company on the Mack bandwagon.
(Said bandwagon shall henceforth be known as the Mackwagon.)
It's a Mackwagon Mayock has been driving since before the combine started. On more than one occasion during the event's television broadcast on the NFL Network, Mayock made it clear that were he general manager of the Houston Texans the first pick of the 2014 NFL draft would open some eyes.
As Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk reports, Mayock elaborated while speaking with KFAN-AM:
He’s one of the best two or three players in this draft. I’m going to tell you right now, I’d take him with the first pick. Khalil Mack can play anywhere in the front. 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 p----d 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 apparently knew Mayock has been talking him up, telling Tim Graham of The Buffalo News, "Mike Mayock's the man. 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."
Then it was time to put up or shut up, and Mack's numbers in workouts ended up having plenty to say.
|Bench||40-Yard Dash||Vertical||Broad||20-Yard Shuttle||3-Cone|
Granted Mack's 23 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press was middle of the pack among linebackers, but it was quite a bit better than the 15 put up by UCLA's Anthony Barr, who is considered Mack's chief rival among outside linebacker prospects in 2014.
Mack's second attempt in the 40-yard dash was impressive, especially for a player who checked into the combine at 251 pounds:
Khalil Mack second "unofficial" forty: 4.62. 10 yd of 1.63— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) February 24, 2014
The official results weren't quite as good, but it was still enough to place Mack fourth at the position.
He wasn't done there. Mack's vertical and broad jump numbers both trailed only Ohio State's Ryan Shazier, who put on a similarly impressive athletic display. His 20-yard shuttle time ranked inside the top five.
Impressed is certainly an adjective that can be used to describe the opinion of Bleacher Report's Ryan Riddle where Mack's showing was concerned:
Khalil Mack nailed his opportunity in Indy. Put up some amazing numbers as a whole.— Ryan Riddle (@Ryan_Riddle) February 24, 2014
With that said, not everything went so smoothly, at least in one pundit's opinion:
I still really like Khalil Mack but he did look stiff at times in agility drills. I think a good conditioning program and good coaching— SharonaSays (@SportsbySharona) February 24, 2014
Stiffness in coverage has been a fairly common criticism of Mack, but a so-so performance in some aspects of the position drills did little to detract from what was an otherwise outstanding performance at the combine.
By day's end, Dan Parr of NFL.com reports that NFL Network analyst and former Pro Bowler Willie McGinest called Mack a "more athletic version of 49ers LB NaVorro Bowman."
It was also enough for Sigmund Bloom of FootballGuys to call the "competition" between Mack and Barr a done deal:
Khalil Mack testing better than Anthony Barr pretty much cements his status as first OLB off board. Put him in your top 10— Sigmund Bloom (@SigmundBloom) February 24, 2014
Yet another player-turned-analyst came away from Mack's workout hopeful Mack makes his way to his old team.
Granted, the odds of the Houston Texans following Mayock's advice and taking Mack over Clowney aren't very good. Neither may go first overall, and the first defender off the board will all but certainly be the ridiculously athletic South Carolina star.
However, after Mack's fantastic performance at the combine, the odds of Mack being there for the Buccaneers at No. 7 aren't much better.
Because the Mackwagon is picking up speed.