This is boring to type, and probably more boring to read, but you have to do some clarifying when picking in a mock like this. Well, maybe you don't have to, but I will anyway. The way I treat a mock like this is, ‘What would the team do if the draft were to fall this way?' Others may say, screw it, I'm taking who I would personally take if I were running the team, maybe just because I like said player and think he's going to be a stud. Or even, I'm taking who I think they will actually end up picking, because I think the rest of these AP drafters are crazy. Me, I'm trying to put myself in the draft room, if the draft were to fall this way...
Ok, now that all that crap is out of the way, I'm taking...
Buffalo OLB Khalil Mack
I'm taking Mack even though I think there is almost no chance he makes it to the Vikings at No. 8. Yeah, I know Blake Bortles and his WAG (Primetime should be fired if he doesn't insert a pic of her when Bortles gets selected) is available and their QB depth chart is currently Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel.
But I'm not the one that will be picking so my beliefs of positional importance (and eye candy) don't matter much. I do believe given the opportunity to take, quite possibly the best defensive player in the draft at No. 8, in an offseason after losing Jared Allen, and replacing him with Everson Griffen and his 5.5 sacks in 2013 and 17.5 sacks in four seasons, Rick Spielman won't hesitate to add the most statistically gaudy defensive player in the draft.
Let's get more to Mack the player, because if you haven't been following the draft that closely (and if you haven't you probably aren't still reading) you may not know much about this kid. Mack was an absolute beast at Buffalo. Mack obviously didn't have the hype heading into the season of Clowney, but strictly off of performance in 2013 (and maybe overall), there wouldn't be a debate on who the better player is.
Want some numbers? I've got some numbers: Mack started all 48 games he played over four years and was a consistent performer before stepping up even further his senior season. He had 227 tackles and 18 sacks in his first three years, and then polished things off nicely with a 100 tackle, 10.5 sack senior campaign. The best stat, or at least my favorite Mack stat, is tackles for loss. Those are typically drive stopping or changing plays, Mack had 75 of them over his career, and no one in the history of the NCAA had more. No one. Another record, if that doesn't impress you enough; he also set the FBS record for forced fumbles with 16. You want big plays, this is your man. And his two INT returns for TDs show he can do it in the passing game as well.
You worried about the Combine? I don't care much about the Combine, but he's fine there, too: 4.65 40-yard dash (4.55 at workout), 23 bench reps, 40" vertical, 7.08 seconds 3-cone. He measures 6'3, 251 pounds if you care about that as well.
So let's address the concern about Mack. The main one is that he played in the MAC, against inferior competition, and maybe some teams would be worried about taking a MAC kid in the top 10 after the performance of last year's No. 1 pick from the same conference (cough).
But look closer at some of the competition Mack faced at Buffalo: Ohio State, Baylor, Georgia, Tennessee, Pitt, and a Northern Illinois team that was highly ranked. Mack also had maybe his best game last year in the season opener vs. Ohio St. with 9 tackles, 2.5 sacks and a pick-six, showing off the versatility that makes him so tantalizing as a prospect. You may also say this kid came out of nowhere, and that's a concern. It's not accurate, but keep in mind that Mack was mainly a basketball player in high school and that was the main reason Buffalo was his only D-I offer. He also tore his patellar in high school, which isn't the easiest recovery.
Where will he play for Minnesota? Well, Mack is comfortable in space or with his hand on the ground. My guess is in their 4-3 base he'll be standing up, but that they will have his hand in the turf on more than half of their plays. Buffalo played mostly 3-4, and playing OLB there, he showed he can handle both duties.
Want some highlights? Of course you do, and when watching notice that they don't just come against inferior competition.
Mack will be gone come the eighth pick on May 8th, but if he's not, he'll be wearing Purple and Gold and terrorizing the NFC North for years to come.
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