When the Oakland Raiders spent the fifth-overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft on outside linebacker Khalil Mack, they knew they were getting a special player. Did they know they were getting a player capable of making an impact similar to Clay Matthews, though?
According to GM Reggie McKenzie, Mack has all the makings of a Matthews-type of talent.
“He’s reminded me of Clay Matthews from Day 1,” McKenzie told the San Francisco Chronicle. “He’s one of those guys that knows how to set the edge, and he has the length and power and some tools to rush the passer… He’s got that first step, he can bend, he’s relentless.”
When you put on the tape of Mack during his days at Buffalo, it’s easy to see exactly what McKenzie is talking about. The Raiders’ highly-touted rookie is an athletic freak, displaying outstanding strength, speed and versatility. Not only can he keep up with the fastest players on the field and battle toe-to-toe with the strongest ones, but he also understands the game so well that he’s a step ahead of everyone else.
Now it might seem a bit premature to compare him to a player who has two All-Pro nods and four Pro Bowls under his belt, but the potential is there. Matthews has amassed 50 sacks in his first five seasons while also picking off four passes and forcing 10 fumbles despite two significant injuries. Mack has the physical tools and football IQ to easily match – if not surpass – those numbers.
It’s obviously going to take some time before Mack can join the Green Bay Packers linebacker on the top tier of edge rushers, but it might not be as long as you might think. The Buffalo product is a top candidate to win Defensive Rookie of the Year, and could easily rack up double-digit sacks as a rookie.
If all goes as planned, the Raiders will have their own version of Matthews (although hopefully healthier) by the time the 2014 campaign comes to a close.