Khalil Mack LB Buffalo #46
Size/Athleticism: Excellent blend of speed and strength. Lacks elite height and length, but more than makes up for it with athleticism.
Run Defense: Elite range. Almost exclusively played off the line in college, giving him plenty of room to operate in space. Was rarely engaged off the snap, so his power and ability to quick shed blocks was not often tested. Extremely weak at the point of attack when engaged off the snap—should not be put outside in the 3-4 scheme in run situations as a result. Impressive speed to make plays in pursuit. Displayed patience and an understanding of his assignment against the read option.
Pass Rush: Lines up off the line and does a great job converting speed to power. Played with his hand on the ground in certain sets, but often from a wide-nine position which still gave him room to build momentum. Delivers a nasty initial punch to linemen in a deep set, frequently knocking them on their heels. The better linemen he faced, were often able to recover if he didn’t immediately follow up his initial punch with a second move. Once engaged, he struggles to effectively shed the block and continue to pursue. Plays a little out of control sometimes and loses sight of the quarterback/ball carrier. Also got unsuspectingly popped by a lineman coming in for a double team on a few occassions. Uses a spin move, but with inconsistent balance.
Coverage: Looks very fluid dropping in zone coverage. Awareness and ability to read the quarterback are still developing. Very limited experience in man coverage, but has the athleticism to develop in this area.
Intangibles: Suspended for one game in 2012 for getting into a fight with a teammate in the locker room.
Durability: 48 career starts with no known issues.
Comments: Mack has elite potential, but it does somewhat depend on where he lands in the NFL. He projects as an elite strong-side linebacker in a 4-3 scheme, where he’ll have plenty of room to operate and will rarely be engaged off the snap—his one significant weakness. Mack’s strength is adequate, but he needs room to move and to build up momentum as pass-rusher and he will struggle to find that consistently if playing outside in a 3-4 scheme. In the 3-4 system, he could shift inside but his limited experience dropping in coverage raises some doubt. 4-3 teams should view him as a elite prospect, worthy of a top-five pick. 3-4 teams will almost certainly still view him as a first rounder, but there he is less of a sure thing in that system.