The 2014 NFL Draft is now just days away, and the final pick-by-pick mock draft has begun. Different from my previous mock drafts, I won’t be projecting who I would take, but who I actually think will be selected with the pick. Again I won’t be including trade possibilities simply because they’re limitless and totally unpredictable.
Quick recap: the Houston Texans took Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina) first, the St. Louis Rams took Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson) second, the Jacksonville Jaguars took Greg Robinson (OT, Auburn) third and Cleveland Browns picking Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M) fourth. Who do the Oakland Raiders select at 5?
Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo.
HC Dennis Allen saw firsthand the kind of impact a fast, playmaking outside linebacker with elite pass rushing skills can have on a team when he coached Von Miller in his rookie season with the Denver Broncos, and that’s what he’s hoping for with Mack.
Mack has the skills to play 3-4 OLB, 4-3 OLB and weak side DE in a 4-3 at a very high level, and that versatility will be useful in the Raiders multidimensional defense. He’s a quick-twitch, explosive playmaker who has the speed and lateral quickness to play sideline to sideline. His cover skills are a little raw at this point, but considering his athleticism, I wouldn’t worry about it being a problem for long. He’s stout holding up against the run and has the hands to shed and disengage blocks. His true value will come as a pass rusher, where his explosion puts him on another level.
This pick both fills a need and maximizes value as many have Mack as the best player in the draft overall, regardless of position, so to have him slide to five should be an opportunity GM Reggie McKenzie doesn’t pass up. He’ll be a good fit opposite Sio Moore and Kaluka Maiava, and will be an upgrade over Kevin Burnett.
Who are the next likeliest choices if not for Mack? Obviously it’ll depend on the board. If Watkins falls to this spot, expect the Raiders to jump all over him. I don’t think he will drop that far, so they could also slightly reach for Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M), who doesn’t quite have Watkins speed, but has outstanding size (6-foot 5, 231-pounds) and leaping ability (37-inch vertical).
A franchise QB will also likely be addressed in this draft, but the addition of Matt Schaub gives the Raiders a little flexibility as to when and where they need to look. If Manziel is available here, I could see them going with him, but I think it’d be a mistake to look at Blake Bortles (QB, UCF) here. He needs to go somewhere with a proven QB developer and talent around him to help ease him into the pro game, and Oakland just isn’t that place right now.