The Raiders got their wish in the 2014 Draft when Khalil Mack – the most talented linebacker and one of two elite defensive players in the draft – fell to them at the 5th overall pick.
Mack was a consideration to go number one overall to the Texans and many thought that he would be snapped up by St. Louis, Jacksonville or Cleveland. Instead, the Draft fell the Raiders way and GM Reggie McKenzie snapped up a guy that Oakland needs to be an impact player.
Coach Dennis Allen agreed, saying, in the Raiders press conference after making the pick, “This is an impact player. This guy will have an impact on our football team in the 2014 season.”
Allen went on to say that they view Mack as a 3 down player and said that they believe Mack will be able to do everything they ask him to do. Allen went on to compare Mack to defensive standout Von Miller, who Allen coached when he was the defensive coordinator in Denver.
GM Reggie McKenzie told the assembled media that once they saw that Mack was still available, they no longer were fielding calls – they new that Mack was a guy they wanted on their team.
Mack, at 6’3” 251 lbs, has elite size for an outside linebacker. He has great instincts and can play both the run and the pass. He’s extremely active and does not give up on plays. Mack played a wide variety of areas at Buffalo including rushing the passer and dropping into coverage.
Mike Mayock, the respected NFL Network Draft guru, had Mack as his top player in the 2014 Draft. During Draft coverage, Mayock expressed a belief that Mack will be an All-Pro quality player.
Mack achieved 10.5 sacks and 3 interceptions in 2013, alone, and he leaves Buffalo the most successful defensive player in school history. He leaves Buffalo with 28.5 sacks, 75 tackles for loss, and 16 forced fumbles.
Mack should be an instant starter for the Raiders, who already had a strong linebacker corps. The Raiders return all of their 2013 starting linebackers and add now Mack to the mix.
Mack will almost certainly be a starter come week 1. Last year’s stand out, Sio Moore, is also likely to earn a starting spot. Both Mack and Moore play the strong side linebacker position so one will likely move to weakside linebacker, where last year’s starter, Kevin Burnett, will be pushed out.
I’m guessing that Mack will be the strong side linebacker and Moore will move to the weakside, but this will give them a lot of versatility.
That potentially puts Burnett in competition with Nick Roach for the starting middle linebacker role.
Another benefit is that Mack played as a defensive end, at times, in college and he can rush from both a down and standing position. He was very productive for Buffalo as a pass-rusher and the Raiders lacked any kind of significant pass rush last year.
The Raiders linebacking corps was already one of the strongest on the team and the addition of Mack has only made the unit better. The defense will rely on this unit to create turnovers and stops in 2014.