University at Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack is considered by many to be a top-10 talent in the upcoming NFL draft.
NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock asserted Mack is twice that good.
"I actually think he's a top‑five player," Mayock said Tuesday on a conference call to preview the NFL scouting combine, which begins this week in Indianapolis. Mack's on-field workout in Lucas Oil Stadium will take place Monday.
Mack will be the highest-drafted player in UB history. He is coming off a scintillating season in which he recorded 10.5 sacks, 19 tackles for losses, three interceptions (two returned for touchdowns), five forced fumbles and three recoveries.
"I put the tape on not really knowing what to expect," Mayock said of his assessment of Mack. "I knew he had a lot of positive reviews from around the country, but the first tape I put in was Ohio State, and he blew them up. He made plays all over the field, on the edge, dropping into coverage, explosion, hustle.
"Then I think the next tape I put in was Kent State, and he made a one‑handed interception. He runs like a safety. He explodes off the edge."
Mack was considered an elite draft prospect in autumn. He named All-America.
His stock appears to be rising still.
"From my perspective in today's NFL, guys that have natural edge-rush ability are like gold," Mayock said. "You've got to get them when they are available.
"He's one of the elite edge guys in the draft, but he hustles. He's tough. He can play the run game, and unlike a lot of these guys, he can also drop in coverage.
"So I have yet to find a hole in his game."
Mayock added that Mack is versatile enough to play in a 3-4 or 4-3 defensive scheme. At 6 foot 3 and 248 pounds, Mayock could even envision him lining up in coverage against a tight end without much problem.
"I think the important thing is that if you are drafting him as a 4‑3 team," Mayock said, "you have to make sure that in nickel and sub situations, you're freeing him up to go get the quarterback, and in today's NFL, because of the versatility in defenses, I think that's fine.
"I think after [Jadeveon] Clowney, he's the most gifted edge guy in this class, and I think regardless of your scheme, you need to draft them and play them."