Khalil Mack might not have won any important NCAA football games at the University of Buffalo, but he is winning the NFL draft process.
You want to know how to get noticed out of a small college program? Dominate a big-time opponent like Ohio State, set NCAA records, blaze through the NFL Scouting Combine with your measurables and then have a well-respected draft analyst like Mike Mayock call you his choice for the No. 1 overall pick, like Mayock did in this Minneapolis radio interview.
If you put the tape on against Ohio State, he dominates Ohio State like no one I have 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.
Check, check, check and checkmate.
The 6'3", 251-pound linebacker with a 40-inch vertical, according to his CBS Sports draft profile, just might be jumping into the top five, even if he doesn't overtake the equally physically impressive Jadeveon Clowney as the first defensive player taken in May.
Mayock prefers Mack because of the intangibles, saying in that aforementioned radio interview:
What can't this kid do? He must be a bad kid off the field, and then I find out he's a really good kid off the field. You talk about a kid like Clowney, who's just got superhuman abilities, versus this kid, and if I had a choice between the two, I think I'm going Mack.
That hype came before Mack held his pro day, which is when he turned his 4.65 40-yard combine dash into a 4.54, according to a tweet from NFL insider Adam Schefter.
Moments ago at his Pro Day, Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack clocked the 40 in a 4.54....— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 4, 2014
It certainly sounds like Mack is plenty big and fast to be a 3-4 rush linebacker in this league. It is no wonder he set an NCAA record with 16 forced fumbles and is tied for first in NCAA history with 75 tackles for loss, as NFL.com's Mike Huguenin reminded us here.
On top of that, he has never missed a game in college due to injury, as CBS Sports' Dane Brugler marvels.
He's fast. He's big. He's productive. He's healthy. He has his helmet on straight, figuratively speaking. Yeah, it should not matter much he hasn't faced elite competition coming out of the Mid-American Conference.
Bleacher Report's draft profile highlights these three strengths:
- Relentless work ethic and pursuit
- Athletic pass-rusher with good shoulder dip and hip flexion
- Strong at point of attack to redirect blockers
Because he has the speed to play as the rush linebacker in the 3-4 and the strength to be the "Sam" in the 4-3, Mack can play for anyone. He would have a number of teams lining up to pick him on draft day if he wasn't rising so high. There might be only a handful of teams that even see him on the board.
Who should be the first player taken?
The Houston Texans figure to select a quarterback or Clowney at No. 1 overall. The St. Louis Rams, picking second, figure to need a wide receiver like Sammy Watkins or offensive tackle like Jake Matthews or Greg Robinson more.
The Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 3, Cleveland Browns at No. 4 or the Oakland Raiders at No. 5 each need a quarterback, but they might be too tempted by the pass-rusher. If Clowney and Mack go off the board in the top five, the Atlanta Falcons at No. 6 wouldn't be happy. They are arguably the team most desperate for a pass-rusher.
It is a fairly remarkable set of scenarios for Mack coming out of the University of Buffalo, a school that lists Gerry Philbin, a third-rounder from 1964, as its highest-ever NFL draft pick, according to NFL.com's Mike Huguenin.
Mack won't have to wait three rounds this May. With his resume, he might not even have to wait three picks.
Eric Mack, one of the giants among fantasy writers, was the Fantasy Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report this past season. He is now an NFL featured writer here. Follow him on Twitter, where you can ask him endless questions about your team, rip him for his content and even challenge him to a head-to-head fantasy game.