Khalil Mack and the 10 Most Explosive Athletes from the 2014 NFL Combine
Explosion is an underrated trait in today's NFL. However, it's what the yearly combine exposes the most out of each year's crop of athletes. Khalil Mack had one of the best showings at the combine because of his explosive athleticism.
Now, you might be asking yourself how I've quantified explosion from each player at the combine. And it's honestly quite simple. I take the weight, vertical jump and 10-yard split from a player's 40-yard dash and convert it into a horsepower rating for every player.
Based on 2009-to-2013 results of 1,573 players who registered an explosion score, 0.96 horsepower or higher is elite. Just 27 players had registered a score above the 0.96 level. Just 14 had registered a score of 0.99 horsepower or higher.
While this may seem trivial to worry about, the 14 players in the group I've dubbed the one horsepower club are as follows: DL Glenn Foster, TE Virgil Green, TE Jared Cook, OLB Jamie Collins, EP Michael Johnson, OLB Dontay Moch, EP Nick Perry, OT Donald Stephenson, EP Brian Orakpo, WR/TE Lamont Bryant, EP Connor Barwin, DE Cyril Obiozor, DL J.J. Watt, and TE Jimmy Graham.
There aren't any 2014 players in the one horsepower club based on their combine results. However, three more players were added to the 27 in the elite .96-and-above level. NFL teams should make sure to keep their eyes open with the following 10 guys as they are the most explosive in this year's draft class.
Note: "EP" stands for "Edge Player." These are guys who project to either 4-3 defensive end or 3-4 outside linebacker.
10. DL Jay Bromley, Syracuse
Explosion Score: 0.90301 Horsepower
Jay Bromley's film shows someone with excellent burst off the line, so him being in this grouping is somewhat expected. His rating of just over-.90 horsepower puts him in the top 6.4 percent of all players that have been scored from 2009 to 2014.
Bromley is a unique prospect who can play all over the defensive line. He's able to effectively pressure and sack quarterbacks. On top of that, his explosion shows up against the run, as he can penetrate the line and take down rushers in the backfield.
9. EP James Gayle, Virginia Tech
Explosion Score: 0.90748 Horsepower
James Gayle is an underrated pass-rusher off the edge. His score was a bit unexpected, as he doesn't play ridiculously fast. However, he does show good leg drive in his film, and this score measures a player's power generated from their legs.
Gayle will fill in well in a multiple front scheme as both an end and a linebacker. His ability to create pressure from the edge will be valuable to a team, and his unexpected athleticism could make a team take him a round or two earlier than currently expected.
8. EP Howard Jones, Shepherd
Explosion Score: 0.91269 Horsepower
Howard Jones is a complete unknown out of Shepherd University. It's a Division II school, so Jones' film isn't easily accessible to the average fan. He also played in the NFLPA collegiate bowl, but that also wasn't readily available for film study.
Jones did have a solid game that day and even recovered a fumble. However, with his score at just over 0.912 horsepower, NFL teams should be going back to get as much film as possible to make sure they know what his talent level really is.
7. EP Prince Shembo, Notre Dame
Explosion Score: 0.92820 Horsepower
This one was a bit of a shock. Prince Shembo hadn't displayed the natural athleticism on the field that would lead anyone to suspect this kind of score from him. He's a read-and-react type of defender who lets the play unfold in front of him.
Nonetheless, the NFL should love what Shembo can bring to the table if he can learn how to harness his explosion shown at the combine on the field. His ceiling could wind up being a Justin Houston-level impact if he can do that.
6. EP Chris Smith, Arkansas
Explosion Score: 0.93787 Horsepower
Chris Smith is compared in the video above to Brandon Graham. However, he seems to compare better to Jason Worilds of the Steelers, both in size and in explosion. Smith's score was almost identical to what Worilds put out there in 2010.
Smith does show some of the explosion in his film, though. He's a bit of a project with his hand usage and technique. But with a talented defensive line coach, Smith could be a steal for a team that's looking for a developmental pass-rusher.
5. DL Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota
Explosion Score: 0.95281 Horsepower
At 6'6" and 310 pounds, it would have been very unrealistic to predict the 35.5" vertical jump that Ra'Shede Hageman performed at the combine. His film did show his strength and leg explosion off the line that would lead to an expectation of a solid explosion score.
An explosion score of over .95 horsepower was a lot higher than expected though. Hageman will be able to use his freakish talent and combine it with solid football instincts to make an impact at the NFL level. The only real question is how soon will he polish up and turn into the potential Pro Bowler he looks to be.
4. EP Kareem Martin, North Carolina
Explosion Score: 0.95623 Horsepower
An unexpected, but welcome, name to this list was Kareem Martin. He's shown some unique talent at North Carolina as a raw, but strong defensive end. Ideally, he's in a role as a base left defensive end in a 4-3 scheme along the lines of a Cameron Wake-role.
Martin has potential to play effectively in the 3-4 as well. He's got ridiculously high potential and his explosion score is just one factor that shows his potential. Then again, should we really be that shocked that a guy who had 11.5 sacks and 14 QB hurries this past season is as explosive as Martin is?
3. OT Matthew Patchan, Boston College
Explosion Score: 0.96407 Horsepower
If you are going, "WHO?!" I don't blame you. Matt Patchan was a Florida lineman for five seasons that included two redshirt years—one for injury and one for a conversion from defense to offense. Patchan then transferred to Boston College for 2013 and started the entire year at left tackle.
As a run-blocker, he showed some solid NFL potential. He also showed some solid push and punch off the line. However, no one expected to see a score this high from him. It will be interesting to see what NFL teams think of him, as this score has multiple people scrambling to go back and watch his tape.
2. EP Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
Explosion Score: 0.96882 Horsepower
The only surprising thing about this score is that Jadeveon Clowney didn't break one full horsepower. He's a truly athletic freak who has one of the strongest explosions off the snap in the 2014 draft. Teams will be scrambling for the ability to draft the next top-level pass-rusher.
Clowney has some media-driven concerns about his work ethic. However, it would be surprising to see him fail in the NFL. It would also be surprising to see Clowney make it out of the top five picks, as he's a rare talent that hasn't been available for years.
1. EP Khalil Mack, Buffalo
Explosion Score: 0.97514 Horsepower
Khalil Mack took his chance at the combine to set himself apart from his competition as an elite talent in this year's draft. While he isn't the rare athlete that Jadeveon Clowney is on film, he showed the same explosion at the combine that Clowney did.
In fact, by beating Clowney's explosion score, Mack surprised quite a few scouts. Nonetheless, Mack cemented himself in the top 10 with his combine performance. And with great team visits and a good pro day, he could even cement himself into the top five.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, College Football, NFL and the NFL draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.
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