Khalil Mack’s been making a name for himself for a while. Sure, his performance in the season opener against Ohio State gained Mack a lot of attention, but he’s been on the NFL scouting radar since he recorded 4.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss as a redshirt freshman in 2010. Since then, he’s been a one-man wrecking crew on defense and most think he’s the top linebacker in this year’s draft. Not bad for a small school player, the kind of designation that often leads scouts to believe a player won’t be able to perform against the best football players in the country.
With his nine tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and a 45-yard pick six against OSU, Mack showed he doesn’t deserve that small-school caveat when discussing his talent. He led the Buffalo Bulls in tackles for loss every season and was the sack leader in all but one year. He ends his career with 28.5 sacks and 75 tackles for loss, a mark that ties the NCAA career record. His 16 forced fumbles is also an NCAA record. This year, Mack was awarded the Jack Lambert Award, given to the nation’s top linebacker.
Scouts see the complete NFL linebacker in the 6-foot-3, 248-pound Mack. He’s got the athleticism to rush the passer and defend the pass, doing both in high gear. He relentlessly defends the run and can shed blocks and navigate traffic around the line of scrimmage. The complete body of work that Mack has turned in is enough to lead NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah to call Mack the can’t-miss player in this year’s draft. Bucky Brooks, also from NFL.com, said one AFC scout told him Mack would have been a second-round pick in last year’s draft and currently he’s at worst a late first-rounder.
Mack has the versatility and ferocity to play outside linebacker in either a 3-4 or a 4-3 system and his pass coverage isn’t a liability against tight ends at all. While Mack did play some defensive end in college, scouts see him as a do-everything, pass-rushing linebacker in the NFL, the kind of player that will find himself in backfields meeting quarterbacks and running backs alike. The blend of pass rushing ability with his other linebacker tools is why some scouts think Mack is a top-10 pick. In this week’s Mock Monitor, he was selected by three different pundits as this year’s Falcons selection at No. 6.
Mack isn’t a small-school talent. He’s an extremely talented linebacker playing at a small school. His production was consistent and he played all out on every snap of every game at Buffalo, despite experiencing losing seasons in three of his four seasons on the field. The team that drafts Mack appears to be getting a defensive cornerstone that will not stop.
Also, if there’s any question about his speed, check out the video below. The first play is the interception return against OSU. While running to the end zone, Mack outran Braxton Miller (No. 5), possibly the fastest quarterback in the country, and Dontre Wilson (No. 1), who is rumored to have run a 4.33 40.