Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo (HT: 6'2⅝"; WT: 251 lbs)
First Round: Fifth Pick
NFL Comparison: Brian Orakpo, OLB, Washington Redskins
+ Explosive mover
+ Converts speed to power and bull rushes
+ Instinctive to read pass-blockers
+ Disciplined run defender on the edge
+ High-effort performer
- Less effective in tight quarters
- Uncomfortable shedding run blocks or playing from off the line of scrimmage
- Didn't appropriately dominate inferior competition at all times
|6025||251||33 1/4"||10 1/4"|
|40-yd dash||10-yd split||Vert||Broad||3-Cone||Shuttle|
When it comes to pass-rushers, Khalil Mack has a compact build. He does have long enough arms and huge hands, though. As far as natural athleticism, Mack's centers around explosiveness. He generates power from his lower body and gets to top speed quickly. Power, speed and suddenness are all in Mack's arsenal.
Mack's off-the-field slate is clean aside from a locker room fight with a teammate that landed him a one-game suspension in 2012. His fine work ethic in the weight room has been noted, and his muscular definition shows it. Mack has a high football IQ that pays dividends in terms of versatility, play recognition and gap responsibilities.
Rushing the passer is why edge players make the big bucks, and it's what Khalil Mack does best. He brings a combination of speed, power and instincts to the table. An underappreciated part of his game is the ability to read a tackle in his pass set and quickly react to take advantage of poor balance or footwork.
His hallmark move is a speed-to-power conversion in which he jolts the tackle with a heavy punch and then plays off the blocker to play the quarterback.
Mack plays from his feet with a wide alignment, as Ohio State tackle Jack Mewhort gets him one-on-one:
The plan becomes clear. Mack drives straight up the field to get Mewhort sliding to the point where he has to overextend to match the speed. At that point, Mack puts his foot in the ground and drives straight into the tackle, converting built-up speed into power.
It all comes back to instincts for Mack. Against a slower or even a quicker tackle, if he gets a step off the ball he can accelerate around the corner and dip his shoulder to turn it. His lateral quickness and flexibility translate to rushing from all alignments as well.
That is especially relevant for teams who run a 4-3 and will have interest in Mack's versatility as a blitzing linebacker from different locations than the edge.
Though it's a less important aspect of today's game, defenders must be able to hold their own against the run. Mack has a bit of a hit-or-miss way of defending the run. His NCAA-record 75 career tackles for loss tell of his ability to get into the backfield and disrupt plays. He also has the closing speed to chase down ball-carriers and limit big gains.
The issues revolve around consistency separating himself from run blocks. Mack tends to get hung up on blockers, not properly using his hands to control and play off quickly. There are flashes of skill where he throws tight ends around at the line of scrimmage. Teams had success running at him other times, even moving him backwards on occasion.
Growth comes down to hand usage. Mack has the arm length and strong hands needed to be a better stack-and-shed run defender, so improvement should be expected.
For a player who was predominantly used on the line of scrimmage, Mack showed fine instincts and awareness dropping into zone coverage. He keeps his head on a swivel, will use his hands to reroute receivers and even anticipates routes. Mack even showed requisite ball skills to make interceptions, taking the ball the other way three times as a senior.
His baseline skills in coverage are a bonus. He'll never be the type of linebacker to trail tight ends in man coverage or get great depth in zones. To maximize his talent, teams should have him coming forward whenever possible.
The optimal schematic fit for Khalil Mack is on the outside in a 3-4 base front. He will be more effective on his first day as a pro if he plays from the line of scrimmage. Whether or not he plays with a hand in the dirt or not shouldn't make a big difference. That means when teams go to nickel packages, he can slide to an end spot if need be.
His versatility shouldn't be overlooked either. Teams who employ a 4-3 base defense, especially ones who like to blitz, could view Mack as a strong-side linebacker. From there you have the option of bringing him to the line of scrimmage and kicking a base end to the inside on passing downs. Playing from off the ball early on would be a transition for Mack.
His read and react skills aren't there right now, which will lead to hesitant play until he becomes comfortable with the position. Most defenses in the league have a use for Khalil Mack; it's just a matter of immediate impact or long-run returns.