2014 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Buffalo OLB/DE Khalil Mack

Buffalo Bulls Khalil Mack

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Position: OLB/DE School: Buffalo
Height: 6’3″ Weight: 248
Class: RS Senior 40 time: N/A

With as big a part of the NFL as the passing game has become, teams seem to have a constant need for pass rushing depth. And while it is plentiful in the 2014 NFL Draft class and has been headlined by BCS conference players such as Jadeveon Clowney and Anthony Barr, a player who has been continually climbing up draft boards during 2013 is Buffalo‘s Khalil Mack.

Since Buffalo is a member of the Mid-American Conference, Mack doesn’t have the advantage of facing elite competition week-to-week like most of his draft competition does. However, he made the most of one of his opportunities to impress when he faced Ohio State on August 31. He registered nine total tackles and 2.5 sacks while also running back an interception 45 yards for a touchdown. And overall, Mack has been one of the most successful defensive players in the history of Division I football. If he can register 2.5 more tackles for loss over the remainder of his college career he can break Jason Babin‘s record for career tackles for loss.

One thing that could be either an advantage or a setback for Mack at the NFL level is his lack of a position. He lines up all over the field at Buffalo, and it’s conceivable that he could fit into several different areas in a pro defense. It would seem that as far as transitioning from his current role into an NFL one, the best position for him would be a Von Miller-like rush linebacker spot in a hybrid defense. With that said, there are only so many NFL defenses that would allow him to do this without having to significantly change their respective philosophies. If necessary, Mack could probably also play as a 3-4 outside linebacker or a 4-3 defensive end.

Regardless of where he plays, Mack should be very desirable to pro teams because of his intangibles and natural pass-rushing ability. He’s highly motivated, and he’s very quick and agile. In fact, against Ohio State, he was able to get to the quarterback just 1.9 seconds after the snap. Despite his status as a mid-major player Mack has a great chance to be an early pick, especially due to the need for pass-rushing upgrades among some of the teams who will likely have top-15 picks, such as the Atlanta Falcons, Buffalo Bills, Houston Texans, and New York Giants.

Positives

  • Experience rushing from all over the field; has lined up as a stand-up edge rusher, over the middle, as a traditional linebacker behind the defensive tackles, as a hand-in-the-dirt defensive end, and even occasionally as a defensive tackle
  • Very quick and agile, can get to the quarterback extremely quickly if not properly guarded
  • Positions himself well, stays disciplined in the backfield and has the potential to be a very effective run defender
  • Pretty serviceable when dropping back into coverage
  • Spectacular jumping ability which can be used to knock balls down
  • Plays hungry, once he gets focused in on the quarterback he usually gets to him
  • For his position, he’s a major ballhawk; has three interceptions this year, two of which have been returned for touchdowns

Negatives

  • Doesn’t have a clear position; the team that drafts him will have to decide whether he is a 3-4 linebacker, 4-3 end or 4-3 linebacker
  • Plays against inferior MAC competition
  • Needs to get stronger, gets handled by offensive players too often
  • Over-pursues at times and takes himself out of the play

2013 Performance

Mack has been dominant in every facet of the defensive game during 2013. He has 82 total tackles along with 16 tackles for loss which have created a total of 91 yards lost. He has 10.5 sacks and three interceptions, two of which have been returned for touchdowns. In a season full of accomplishments, perhaps his biggest one was registering 2.5 sacks and an interception return against an Ohio State team that has gone on to be undefeated through their first 11 games. It’s no small feat, either, that Mack registered 15 total tackles against Toledo. If there’s anything to be concerned about during his 2013 season it was Mack’s performance against Baylor. Buffalo’s defense was torched for 781 yards and 70 points, while Mack registered just four tackles and had no sacks.

2014 Draft Projection: First Round

Film Watched: vs. Ohio (2013), vs. Stony Brook (2013), vs. Ohio State (2013), vs. Kent State (2012)

Patrick Karraker is an NFL Draft Scout for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickKarraker, “Like” him on Facebook, or add him to your network on Google.


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