As of now, the top two ranked OLB's in this years draft class are Anthony Barr and Khalil Mack. You can check out my writeup on Anthony Barr in my previous FanPost. But now it's time to talk a little bit about Khalil Mack. Both Mack and Barr are 3-4 OLB's which some may think would not fit our current defensive 4-3 scheme. However, we've seen plenty of 3-4 OLB's adapt to a 4-3 scheme and still find a niche. One that comes to mind is Denver Broncos OLB Von Miller. Miller played under a couple different schemes with Texas A&M in college. In 2008 the Aggies used a 4-2-5 defense. The following year, they switched to a 4-3 defense. In 2011 they switched to a 3-4 defense and Miller ended the year with 8.5 sacks in his final 6 games after finally being healthy. The Broncos chose him with their #2 overall pick and there was some criticism because of the fact that he was considered a 3-4 OLB, and the Broncos were switching to a 4-3 defense. But we know how that story ends. And it could certainly be a similar situation for the Lions if they choose to take a guy like Barr or Mack. Mack is extremely athletic. And compared to Barr, he's much more experienced at the OLB position. He also has great instincts and is much better at shedding blocks than Barr. I would give Barr the edge on athleticism and speed, but right now I believe Mack is a more complete player than Barr. Barr certainly has a higher ceiling, however.
As you can tell from the table above, Mack seemed to improve his play each year he was at Buffalo. He ended up tying the NCAA record in most career tackles for a loss (75), and currently holds the NCAA record in most fumbles forced (16). There are some small character concerns with him, and he was suspended for one game during the 2012 season after getting involved in a locker room fight with a teammate. However, I don't feel like something like that will drop his stock at all, and his coach has raved about him since the incident. It came as a surprise because of his clean history, and he hasn't had any issues since the fight.
Here's what Buffalo Bulls Head Coach Jeff Quinn had to say about Mack a year later.
"Khalil is a tremendous competitor," Quinn said. "What you find in Khalil, too, that a lot of people don't see is that he's a very humble young man. He plays for his team, he plays the game because he's got great passion. He comes from a great family, he's not an arrogant kid. He's just a locked-in football player, a college student-athlete who just loves to get out there and compete at the highest level."
Pretty cliche, I know.
Usually I will pick certain plays and point out some significance, but after watching only 5 videos available to me courtesy of Draft Breakdown, there were too many plays to talk about. So to start, I'll just post the entire game against Ohio State and just point out the many plays I thought showed how good Mack is/can be.
Mack played like a mad man against OSU in this game. He had 9 total tackles, 2.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks and a pick 6 just for shits and giggles. Some players get knocked for playing on a weaker school like Buffalo going up against weaker competition...but when you can play this well against a school like OSU, it's hard to defend that argument. Mack moved around a lot during the game and went up against both LT Jack Mewhort and RT Taylor Decker. Mewhort will be entering this years draft as well, and is currently projected to go in the 2nd round via CBSSports.com, and Decker is an up and coming Sophomore who has done well for the Buckeyes. That's two solid OT's Mack faced, and it wasn't even fair the way he handled them.
1:04: Lined up in the 9-technique (would fight right in with the Lions), bulls right into Mewhort and drives him back. Draws a holding call and pursues and forces Braxton Miller to throw the ball away.
2:54: Shows off his strength and bull rush technique. Drives RT Decker back, gets his arm wrapped around Miller while he's trying to step up and gets the sack.
3:10: Very next play, pushes Decker back again and pressures Miller, however Miller gets the ball off quick on a short route.
4:15: OSU runs what seems to be a shotgun buck sweep play. Mack does a great job of freeing himself from his blocker, shows that he can make plays in open space. Doesn't bring down the carrier but does a good job of slowing him down.
4:43: Here's a not so great play by Mack. The QB rolls to his left and is being chased by a defender already. Mack probably should have stayed with his man, but instead he moves up and tries to pressure the QB leaving his man wide open for an easy catch. I noticed that while in coverage, Mack sometimes loses his man and tends to keep his eyes on the QB and step up rather than stay with his man, whether it's the right decision or not.
4:57: Up against the LT again. Mack shows off his lethal inside move and uses his hands well to shed the block. Ends up with a great opportunity for a sack but Miller is too slippery and gets away from Mack.
5:12: Very next play. This is my favorite play by far, and shows why Mack is a great playmaker on defense. Mewhort tries to get Mack with a cut block, but Mack does a good job of recognizing that. He hesitates and steps back allowing Mewhort to look foolish and dive at the ground while Mack sits there and keeps his eye on the ball. Miller throws it right to Mack and Mack takes it to the house for 6 points and outruns OSU's speedy Freshman RB, Dontre Wilson. Great awareness, instincts and speed all shown on that play.
6:38: Up against the RT, uses his speed and beats him to the outside using his hands well to go right around him and get the sack again. (It was evident that Mack was just going to have a huge game at this point)
8:40: This time Mack goes up against the LG. He pushes him back about 5 yards rather easily and ends up sacking Miller and forcing a fumble....however he grabbed the LG's facemask in the process and gets penalized for it.
9:23: Similar to the play at 4:15, Mack is left in open space and sheds a block and makes a play on the runner in the backfield.
Most of these plays show the capabilities of Mack as a pass rusher, and he seemed to do an okay job in coverage all around as well. But he also was pretty decent against the run. Sometimes he would get pushed around against the run, but that largely has to do with the fact that he saw plenty of double teams in 2013.
Here is a play that shows Mack recognizing that it's going to be a run play and makes a nice inside move to cut off the runner and stop him for a minimal gain. His ability to change directions and maintain speed is amazing.
Mack vs. Barr:
I touched on the comparison briefly in the introduction... but if I had to choose between these two OLB prospects, I think I'd have to go with Mack. He's just the safer option at this point and is the more complete player right now. If Barr reaches his ceiling, then he could possibly be one of the best OLB's in the NFL down the road. But there is a high risk with him as well. He just seems to be pure speed and athleticism at this point. Mack is much better at shedding blocks, and just seems to have a better feel for the game on the defensive side. I also noticed that Mack had to go up against more double teams and still made more plays against the run. Both Barr and Mack should be considered playmakers as they both made a lot of plays and caused plenty of turnovers, but the difference is that Mack would make plays and keep playing, while Barr would make plays and disappear for long stretches. Another thing I noticed is that Mack tends to hesitate quite often and doesn't always have a very explosive first step. Some plays he'll have a lightning quick first step and bull right through his man for a pressure, and other times he'll just feel out the play and basically do nothing but watch the QB. Barr seemed to be a lot more explosive every play, but he'd end up getting erased by his blocker because he couldn't shed the block. Mack also seemed to have some trouble in the 3 point stance every once in a while and did not react quick enough when the ball was snapped.
In conclusion, Both guys are great prospects, and I'd love for the Lions to take either guy if they felt like one was the best player available to them at #10.
Why We Should Draft Him
Two words. Play. Maker. Mack is the most well-rounded 3-4 OLB prospect in this draft, and should have no problem as a hybrid 4-3 OLB/DE in our system. We need a playmaker on defense. Mack is our guy.
Why We Shouldn't Draft Him
If you're going to go OLB, you might as well go big and go for the guy with the highest upside in Anthony Barr. We did this last year with Ezekial Ansah and look how that turned out. Mack also got involved in a fight with one of his own players at Buffalo. I thought we got rid of Titus Young.
After doing some extensive research on both Barr and Mack, I've come to the conclusion that I like Mack more as a prospect and think he'd benefit us more. He'd be the playmaker we need on defense. My top 5 would be Watkins, Mack, Evans, Barr and Dennard at this point. But that's subject to change once I look into some more players.
Sorry again for the extremely long post, I thought this one would be shorter, but I tend to ramble on and on so I apologize, lol.
I'm not sure who I should do next. Was thinking Dennard, Ealy or maybe Dee Ford or HaHa Clinton-Dix. Let me know what you guys think, and thanks for the support. Rec the post if you like it and feel free to discuss the pick.