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michael89156

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: March 07, 2014, 03:27:38 AM


Khalil Mack's best team fits include Jaguars, Buccaneers, Lions

 By Bucky Brooks

NFL Media analyst    NFL.com

Published: March 6, 2014 at 06:57 p.m.


In advance of the 2014 NFL Draft, Bucky Brooks is examining the best team fits for one high-profile prospect each week. Today, he takes on Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack.





Small-school standouts rarely dominate the conversation leading up to the draft, but lately, the stars of the Mid-American Conference have been proving themselves the exception to the rule.

Last year, Central Michigan's Eric Fisher rose from relative obscurity to become the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. The ultra-athletic offensive tackle silenced critics questioning the level of competition he faced by dominating opponents in the Senior Bowl and putting on a spectacular performance at the NFL Scouting Combine, thus justifying his position as the top prospect in the 2013 class.

This year, Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack is making a similar climb up the charts as draft day approaches. The MAC Defensive Player of the Year cemented his status as a first-round pick with a handful of dominant games last fall against big-school competition (Ohio State, Baylor and Connecticut) that showcased his potential as a force off the edge. Mack followed this up with a sensational effort at the combine that had some observers touting him as one of the top five prospects in the 2014 draft.

Now, I certainly understand the buzz surrounding Mack -- who only bolstered his reputation at Buffalo's pro day this week -- having watched him put on a solid showing at the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against San Diego State. Although the Bulls didn't perform up to par in that game, Mack was clearly the best player on the field, even while facing double and triple teams on the edge. He dominated the point of attack with his brute strength and also flashed the speed and athleticism that made him one of college football's most disruptive defenders.

Looking at Mack's performances against big-school competition -- namely, Ohio State -- I came away impressed with his athleticism, physicality and effort. Not only did he dominate the point of attack against the Buckeyes, he also showed impressive skills as a power rusher off the edge. Mack overwhelmed blockers with his explosiveness, registering two sacks on bull rush/forklift maneuvers.

Additionally, Mack displayed superb cover skills and awareness as a dropper in zone-blitz concepts. He is an astute pattern-read defender with a knack for anticipating throws in his area. As a result, he delivered a handful of punishing shots on Ohio State receivers, putting a bow on one of the best "one-man show" performances that I've seen from a prospect.


With Mack also exhibiting overwhelming dominance against small-school competition, scouts walked away convinced that his talent would warrant top-10 consideration. Now, I might be the dissenting voice in the scouting community, but I believe Mack is best suited for a complementary role on a defense that already features a star among the front seven. I've likened Mack's game to that of Pro Bowler Ahmad Brooks in previous posts, because I see Mack, with his skill set, as more of a Robin than a Batman. While Mack certainly can take over the game at times, I don't know if he possesses the first-step quickness to be a consistently dominant rusher or playmaker off the edge.

With that in mind, I've identified five teams that would ideally suit Mack's game at the next level.

NOTE: The franchises that follow are those that would best utilize Mack's talents, regardless of draft position or how the rest of the pre-draft process plays out.



Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 3 overall pick)

The Jaguars desperately need more playmakers to create the elite defense that Gus Bradley believes is necessary to compete in the AFC South. Mack is a disruptive force at the point of attack, possessing impressive instincts and a knack for knocking the ball loose (he recorded an NCAA-record 16 forced fumbles at Buffalo). With a versatile skill set that allows him to line up as a 4-3 Sam linebacker or at defensive end in sub-packages, Mack could become a key piece on a Jaguars D built on speed, quickness and athleticism.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 7)


New coach Lovie Smith inherits a Buccaneers defense on the cusp of emerging as a dominant force in the NFC. However, the unit needs a difference maker on the edges to get over the hump. Mack would be a perfect fit as a Sam linebacker assigned to beat up the tight end in an "under" front. Additionally, Mack's skills as a pass rusher would make him a dangerous defender on blitzes or as a nickel pass rusher on obvious passing downs. The legitimate contenders in the NFC are led by heavyweight defenses; adding Mack could thrust the Buccaneers into the conversation.

Detroit Lions (No. 10)

The Lions' defense, which is led by a formidable front line, still requires a playmaker on the second level to compete with the elite teams in the NFC. Mack is a difference maker with the kind of "hard hat and lunch pail" mentality that's desperately needed in Detroit. Most importantly, he is a versatile strong-side linebacker who could augment a talented defensive line with monsters at every position. If new coach Jim Caldwell can add Mack's disruptive skills to a front seven that's as talented as any in pro football, the Lions could emerge as the team to beat in the NFC North.

Tennessee Titans (No. 11)

Ray Horton, who joined the Titans in January, has quietly developed into one of the top defensive coordinators in the business. He has a knack for building punishing units with an exotic scheme that creates big-play opportunities for disruptive defenders. Mack would be an ideal fit as a hybrid linebacker with dynamic skills as a rusher or a drop defender. Given that Mack is also adept at attacking blockers and swallowing up runners in the backfield, bringing the hard-hitting defender into the fold would make the Titans' defense a dangerous force.

New York Giants (No. 12)

The Giants have eschewed several opportunities to upgrade their linebacker corps in previous drafts, and their lack of speed and athleticism on the second level shows up in big games against elite competition. Adding Mack would address a significant need while also helping Big Blue match up against the wide-open offenses employed by the Philadelphia Eagles and others to take advantage of the favorable rules in the passing game. Given the correlation between sound defensive football and winning games in the NFC, Mack could give the Giants an opportunity to compete in the NFC East.


What about the Houston Texans?

The Texans, who hold the No. 1 overall pick, aren't among the five teams listed because they don't have an obvious need at outside linebacker. Yes, the team is reportedly interested in South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, but that's surely due to his remarkable talent and potential, and I don't see Mack in that class. Thus, I don't believe Mack would be an ideal fit in Houston.





Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

GoldsonAges

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#1 : March 07, 2014, 04:05:53 AM

Yup. Watch all his games and not just Ohio State.

He didnt look too flash in coverage against weaker teams. But that could be the scheme.

I am beginning to wonder myself if Lovie would be able to get the most out of Mack but without the ability to drop deep into coverage he cant play the mlb spot. I think he could probably do very well as a situational pass rusher in Lovies D but this is not the type of player that typically plays LB in Lovies D.

I think its a pretty big gamble to draft him early for this defense but would draft him up early for a 3-4. Im hoping he goes to a 3-4.team like the Jets. I want to watch him dominate in the right system.Gonna be awesome.

Mike Glennon
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bucs449

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#2 : March 07, 2014, 07:46:40 AM

He's a fit anywhere that needs a really good and versatile defender.

Bucs N Beers

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#3 : March 07, 2014, 07:53:55 AM

I'm starting to warm up on him playing SLB. Normally we wouldn't want to draft a SLB in the first. But we spend the majority of our time in the Nickel with 2 LBs. Mason would come off and Mack/David stay on. Mack/David both have the ability to rush the passer and the speed to cover. The you also have the option to put his hand in the dirt on obvious rush down packages.

I'm still not sold on the idea, but the dude is a playmaker. The combo of him and David would be awesome to watch.


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#4 : March 07, 2014, 07:58:29 AM

I'm beginning to like Mack a lot more as well, I honestly think he'd do well in our system. If we stay at #7, looks like we have some good options for an impact player at several positions.

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BucDaFackUp

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#5 : March 07, 2014, 08:59:44 AM

Can he play with his hand in the dirt on every down at 250lbs? Not likely...
What is the value of SLB in Lovie's scheme? Not much...
What's the likelihood that he'll be drafted by Bucs at #7? It's a lock!!  ;)

Boid Fink

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#6 : March 07, 2014, 09:00:05 AM

Who's the Mack?

: March 07, 2014, 09:04:47 AM Boid Fink


JDouble

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#7 : March 07, 2014, 09:09:41 AM

I think Mack will be a great 3-4 linebacker and Buc fans will be saying we should have drafted him for years to come....but I'm not buying that he is a good fit for us at #7 nobody who says it. He's not a full time DE and he simply isn't going to have a big enough impact at SAM to spend a 7th overall pick.


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#8 : March 07, 2014, 09:10:33 AM

Ray Lewis like.


Feel Real Good

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#9 : March 07, 2014, 09:11:58 AM

I'm starting to warm up on him playing SLB. Normally we wouldn't want to draft a SLB in the first. But we spend the majority of our time in the Nickel with 2 LBs. Mason would come off and Mack/David stay on. Mack/David both have the ability to rush the passer and the speed to cover. The you also have the option to put his hand in the dirt on obvious rush down packages.

I'm still not sold on the idea, but the dude is a playmaker. The combo of him and David would be awesome to watch.
Most people think what you would do is play him at SLB in the base defense and in nickel situations, he moves up to DE and one of the base DE's moves inside to DT.

FRG is the most logical poster on this board.  You guys just don\'t like where the logical conclusions take you.

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#10 : March 07, 2014, 09:13:54 AM

If he's as special as some are making him out to be, I actually trust Lovie to fit him into the defense. 

My thinking is that now we at least have a coach who knows how to build a defense to suit his player's strengths and doesn't try to fit square pegs into round holes.


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#11 : March 07, 2014, 09:21:44 AM


blind melon

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#12 : March 07, 2014, 11:47:12 AM

Good, Not Great fit for our system.

Won't be unhappy if he's the pick.  Just not ELATED.

Who knew how good it would feel as a fan when we now know what it\'s like for our team to have a direction, an attitude, and dare I say an offense?.  

Good time to be a Bucs fan.

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#13 : March 07, 2014, 11:49:29 AM

One of the three best realistic options for us


JDouble

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#14 : March 07, 2014, 12:09:49 PM

One of the three best realistic options for us


We only have three realistic options? Who are the other two?

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