Khalil Mack out of Buffalo is one of the most exciting prospects coming into the league in the 2014 NFL draft and it's likely he won't make it out of the top 10 in May.
The outside linebacker possesses an enticing blend of prototypical size, speed, explosiveness, athleticism and a knack for making plays on the ball.
He put all these qualities on display during the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine, where he outperformed Anthony Barr. According to Bleacher Report's Sigmund Bloom, that cemented him as the top outside linebacker in the draft:
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
Here's a quick look at his impressive combine numbers:
|Height||Weight||40||Bench Press||Broad Jump||Vertical Jump||20-Yard Shuttle||3-Cone|
|6'3"||251 lbs||4.65 sec.||23||40 in.||128 in.||7.08 sec.||4.18 sec.|
Mack can play in any system as well, which only adds value to his draft stock. Teams will be drooling over his potential to impact games defensively, but only one team can have him.
So which franchises would be the best fit?
Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 3)
It is hard to imagine Mack would end up in Jacksonville this year, given the Jaguars' need for a quarterback. Also, there's a chance Jadeveon Clowney could be available, and if the team takes a defender, then it will likely be him.
However, the Jags certainly could use a player of Mack's caliber, as the team's linebacking corps isn't as strong at it needs to be—especially against the pass.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Russell Allen and Geno Hayes—Jacksonville's two starting outside linebackers last year—both ranked in the bottom half of the league's 4-3 outside linebackers. Needless to say, adding a top prospect like Mack to the mix should have a positive impact.
The best part of Mack's game is his versatility. He could easily line up at all three linebacker spots in a pinch and will also have a Von Miller-type impact on passing downs as a pure pass-rusher from the defensive end spot.
Sounds just like the kind of player Jacksonville has been missing for years.
Atlanta Falcons (No 6)
Atlanta needs more speed and athleticism at the linebacker position. Last year's lost season highlighted this fact, as Sean Weatherspoon's play declined and the Falcons ended the season among the league's worst defensively.
Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is known for exotic blitzes that come from all over the field. He loves to attack quarterbacks, which is Mack's specialty.
Alen Dumonjic of TheScore.com highlighted Nolan's favored strategy back in 2012:
Nolan is also likely to bring more blitzes out of sub-packages to Atlanta. He uses a significant amount of sub-packages, meaning nickel (five defensive backs) and dime (six defensive backs) personnel, and often sends defensive backs downhill.
When calling these kind of plays, it's imperative to have speedy linebackers who can cover a lot of ground in a hurry. Mack isn't as fluid in coverage as some others, but he brings enough athleticism to hang with most tight ends.
If Nolan were to call Mack's number to get after the quarterback, he'd do what he does best and separate body from ball, creating turnovers for the Falcons.
Buffalo Bills (No. 9)
Kiko Alonso was a revelation last year for the Bills, but there's still room for improvement on the front seven. Adding Mack to play alongside Alonso would give Buffalo a dynamic duo to challenge the best in the league.
Where will Mack end up?
It would also give the fans who've watched him play at Buffalo a chance to continue keeping track of him in the pros. Among those would be his college coach, Jeff Quinn.
“It would give us a chance to continue to watch him,” Quinn told Anna Stolzenburg of BuffaloBills.com. “It would be great to have him here. Not only did he bring his name, the University at Buffalo’s name and our program’s name to the national level, but he’ll be a tremendous asset to whoever picks him up.”
Buffalo might be more inclined to draft an offensive player in Round 1, but selecting Mack would be a move the team wouldn't regret.
All combine results courtesy of NFL.com's results tracker.
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