Last year was an NFL Draft milestone for the MAC, with Central Michigan tackle Eric Fisher taken first overall by the Kansas City Chiefs, the first time a MAC player was so honored. Of course, no one expected it to happen again this season, not with talents like Jadeveon Clowney or Teddy Bridgewater on the board.
No one, that is, except ESPN's Mel Kiper.
In his latest draft rankings, released today, Kiper projects Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack to be the #1 overall pick, going to the Houston Texans. Now, anyone who's been paying attention knows that Mack is an expected top-ten pick, and, according to SBNation's own Stephen White, perhaps the most NFL-ready defender in the draft. But first overall? That's something entirely different. So how did it come to pass?
There are a few factors at play. First, the Texans aren't in the abysmal personnel situation that the worst team in the league usually faces. The offense showed some signs of life despite being pretty bad last year, and the defense -- featuring all-pros like J.J. Watt and Brian Cushing -- was certainly good enough to keep them competitive most of the time. Second, new head coach Bill O'Brien certainly knows the personnel situation isn't that bad, and he likely wants to win right away. O'Brien, a former quarterbacks coach, probably doesn't have the patience to let Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, or Johnny Manziel learn the job over the course of the season when there are dependable, if not flashy, quarterbacks on the roster. And third, Mack is a known quantity. He doesn't have the upside of a physical freak like Clowney, but any team that drafts him knows exactly what they're going to get: a guy who's basically ready to start from day one. For a team like the Texans that expects to turn things around right away, that's a big plus.
So: will we see MACtion (Macktion?) at the top of the draft this year? Only time will tell, of course, but things are looking good.