Active hands, uses them at the same time as his feet
Agility to sink his hips/shoulder
Creates turnovers: forced fumbles & interceptions
Fantastic motor, goes all out for 60 minutes
Plays with good pad level
Holds up well when runs come straight at him
Plays with good pad level
Very physical with offensive players
Hits with authority
Can intimidate offenses
Fast at reading his keys
Great fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker
Improved each season
Wants to be great
Level of competition
Not big enough to play defensive end in a 4-3
Doesn't fit well in all 4-3 defenses
Summary: A year ago, scouts were grading Buffalo edge rusher Steven Means (a 2013 fifth-rounder by Tampa Bay), but the player who they couldn't help but notice leap off the screen was the defender on the other side of the line. That player was Khalil Mack. The dynamic pass-rusher was constantly making plays behind the line of scrimmage, and the positive buzz about him was born well before his senior season.
Mack broke into the lineup as a freshman in 2010. He had 68 tackles with 14.5 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, 10 passes batted and two forced fumbles in an impressive debut. In his sophomore season, Mack totaled 65 tackles with 20.5 tackles for a loss, 5.5 sacks, two passes batted and five forced fumbles in 2011. As a junior, he registered 94 tackles, 21 tackles for a loss, eight sacks, four forced fumbles, one blocked kick and two passes broken up.
Mack's best season came as a senior. It started at the beginning of 2013 when Mack dominated Ohio State to open the year. He had nine tackles with 2.5 sacks versus the Buckeyes, plus an interception that he returned 45 yards for a touchdown. With the exception of a quiet performance against Baylor, Mack was a big-time play-maker on a weekly basis. He totaled 10.5 sacks, 100 tackles, five forced fumbles, seven passes broken up, three interceptions and 19 tackles for a loss for the season.
Mack is a hard hitter who is fast, instinctive and has excellent pursuit skills. He is very strong for his size with the ability to beat offensive linemen with a powerful bull rush and violent hands to shed blocks. Mack uses his hands and feet at the same time to help execute a variety of pass-rushing moves. He is a phenomenal pursuit defender who has the instincts to make plays in the backfield in run defense. Mack is tough when runs come straight at him and chases them down.
For the NFL, Mack looks like a perfect fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker. He is a speedy and powerful edge rusher who should develop into a double-digit sacker. Mack's strength and toughness will make him an asset in the ground game. He also does a nice job of dropping into pass coverage. Mack covers a lot of ground and can make some plays on the ball. His instincts, intelligence and ability to read his keys quickly puts him in position to make a lot of splash plays. Mack has the ability to take over games and cause other teams to game plan for him.
Mack could fit well in some 4-3 defenses as a run-defender and edge rusher, but some 4-3 systems, like the Tampa 2, don't consistently use outside linebackers as pass-rushers; Mack obviously isn't a great fit for those latter schemes. As a pro, he would be best in a 3-4.
With Mack's phenomenal skill set, work ethic and production, he looks like a lock to be a top five pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Player Comparison: Terrell Suggs. Mack is a unique player with his size, speed and physicality. In terms of style of play, he would be the most similar to Suggs of any player currently in the NFL. Suggs has been a pass-rushing force for Baltimore since being drafted with the 10th-overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft. He's been to six Pro Bowls and was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Mack should pan out in the NFL and turn into a defender similar to Suggs.
NFL Matches: Houston, St. Louis, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Oakland, Atlanta, Tampa Bay
There are a few landing spots for Mack in the top 10. Some project him to go to Houston with the first pick, but that is too rich. The Texans' selection should come down to Jadeveon Clowney or Blake Bortles.
WalterFootball.com has heard that the Rams like Mack, but they can't justify using the second-overall pick on a Sam linebacker. If St. Louis took him, Chris Long, Robert Quinn, Alec Ogletree or Mack would have to come off the field in the nickel, and that makes no sense as all of those players are strong pass-defenders. Thus, the Rams will probably pass on Mack despite liking him as a prospect.
Jacksonville makes a lot of sense for Mack. The Jaguars are said to be prepared to pass on a quarterback for a better prospect, and Mack would fit perfectly as the Leo linebacker in their defense. Jacksonville has had a terrible pass rush for years and Mack would help turn that around.
Cleveland doesn't have a big need for Mack, but the Browns have shown a lot of interest in him. He may be too good for Mike Pettine to pass up.
Oakland is another team that must improve its edge rush. The Raiders have shown interest in Mack and are said to like him. However, they drafted Sio Moore in the 2013 NFL Draft and signed Justin Tuck and Lamarr Woodley this year. It seems more likely that Oakland would use a pick on a different position.
Mack should fall no lower than No. 6 or 7. The Falcons pick sixth and are said to be big fans of Mack. Atlanta would almost definitely pull the trigger on him if he got to its pick, but the Falcons will probably have to trade up to get Mack. Thomas Dimitroff has been aggressive in the past, so moving up to land Mack seems like a possibility. Mack is a nice fit in Mike Nolan's hybrid defense.
The Buccaneers also need a pass-rusher, but Mack is a poor fit for Lovie Smith's defense. In St. Louis and Chicago, Smith didn't use his linebackers as pass-rushers, so Tampa Bay would have to carve out a new role for Mack. The Bucs probably won't have a shot at Mack, but if he falls to them, he would be the best player available; that could be enough for general manager Jason Licht to pull the trigger.
As the NFL Draft approaches, I will be making weekly adjustments up until the 27th of April. Rest of the writeups will be coming later this week. Any questions/comments/criticisms can be voiced in the comments. I will respond to all.