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Khalil Mack's draft stock started high, might be about to soar even more

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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."

  • Buffalo Bill Nelson

    Need is the worst evaluator of talent. Top 10 draft picks must be used to draft lead pipe lock talents - guys who are extremely likely to be Pro Bowlers, and maybe even future HOFers. Mack will be gone before the Bills pick at 9, but if a miracle happens and he is there, they MUST take him. He is the next LT: strong, fast, instinctive and violent on the field. He would establish our defensive identity as scary. Like the Giants with LT, the Ravens with Lewis and the Steelers with Harrison. He would turn the mindset of Brady and Belichik who look at us with complete disdain. Go ahead and add a top OT - they are important. But, who was the driving force behind the Giants' drive to 2 Super Bowls in the late 80's/early 90's - Jimbo Elliott or LT? Did you love Will Wolford and curse when he left? I did. But, I'd have traded him and my mother in a nano second for LT.

    • Jeff in Chicago

      keep in mind too that taking the best player available regardless of need can be less than desirable as well. with Lynch and Jackson in the backfield, Nix took Spiller at 9. he was BPA on Nix's board. i still say it's a wasted pick. especially when you think of all the other talent they passed on to get him.

      • Buffalo Bill Nelson

        Jeff, I knew somebody would point that out. You are right about Spiller. Buddy goofed on the lead pipe lock part of the requirement. I like CJ, but he's not nearly as good as Buddy thought he'd be. Given that we had 2 talented backs already, CJ would have to be the next OJ to justify the pick. So, given the situation, Buddy got too clever. Donahue had the all time too-clever pick when he chose MaGahee who had blown out every ligament in one knee. And was Marv the GM when Jauron got his wish and drafted Maybin after only one good year? I don't care what position we draft in the first round, but whoever it is has to be a stud who will start from day one. We certainly have enough needs that we should be able to mesh our needs with the best football player available.

        • Jeff in Chicago

          agreement.

    • TheKaz1969

      I agree. While I am disappointed he likely won't drop to the Bills, I still gotta say it is awesome to see him being recognized nationally.

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Vic Carucci returned to The Buffalo News as a Bills beat reporter in September. Carucci covered the Bills for 17 years before joining NFL.com as a columnist in 1999. Prior to rejoining The News, he spent three years as a senior editor for the Cleveland Browns.

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida.