2014 NFL Mock Draft Roundup: Where Will MAC Players Go

Kirk Irwin

We all know that Khalil Mack will hear his name called early in Round One, but there are plenty of reasons for you #MACtion fans to stick around for the rest of the draft.

Last week I took a look at how some MAC prospects are stacking up leading up to May's NFL Draft. I'm back again to give some updates on Mr. Mack as well as go into some more depth on other MAC guys.

I previously said that Mack has a legitimate shot to go number one overall to the Houston Texans. Since then, however, Jadeveon Clowney had his pro day and by all accounts blew scouts away. Not exactly earth-shattering news considering the fact that he's the definition of a physical specimen and he once made a Michigan player explode (or something like that), but it's a pretty big deal in relation to Mack.

Many had seen them as equals prior to this, some even had Mack higher, but it now appears that Clowney has closed that gap, to say the least. Not that that's surprising, considering the importance placed on a guy's measurables and the fact that Clowney is a freak of nature. Also, as Todd McShay noted in his recap of Clowney's pro day, the biggest knock against him was his perceived immaturity and lackluster work ethic, and those issues tend to fade when you see a man of that size do the things Clowney can do. It's also worth mentioning that these issues were coming up when he was a 20-year-old college kid. What were you doing in college when you were 20 (don't answer that)?

In a recent chat over at the worldwide leader, Mel Kiper answered a question regarding Mack and possible landing spots, saying he "could go 1, 3, or 5, but I don't see him getting down to 6." Based on everything I've seen, I'd agree with that statement. Many outlets have compared this year to 2011, when there were quarterback-needy teams at the top of a quarterback-heavy draft. QB's that were taken early in the first round that year? Jake Locker at eighth, Blaine Gabbert at 10th, and Christian Ponder at 12th. Guys that were drafted by teams that had a need under center but went another direction? A.J. Green went fourth, Patrick Peterson went fifth, and Aldon Smith went seventh. If I'm a team drafting early and have a need at quarterback, I'm looking at those sentences above and taking a long, hard look at a guy like Mack.

Now, like I said earlier, the MAC talent train does not end with Khalil Mack. There are a few other names you'll be hearing, including one name that might be called relatively early:

"Another safety to keep an eye on is Northern Illinois' Jimmie Ward. He opened eyes with a strong showing at the Senior Bowl and shows versatility. He is creating a buzz among inner scouting circles as they review his tape, and Ward looks to be squarely in the second-round mix."

"Ward also could sneak into the back-end of the first-round. Ward is arguably the top coverage safety in the class. He has long arms and is fluid in space. He also showed the ability to play up near the line of scrimmage for NIU."

Those are the words of Kevin Weidl of ESPN and Brent Sobleski of USA Today, respectively.

Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville's Calvin Pryor are the consensus top-two safeties in this class, but Ward is definitely at the top of the next tier of safeties, which is nothing to sneeze at. For what it's worth, according to NFL.com the Eagles, Packers, and Cardinals are teams towards the back of the first round that have a need at safety, so a day one selection isn't out of the question. One mark against him though is his size, and that's something that's one negative stigma that's impossible to distance yourself from in the draft process, no matter how good you look in drills. A day two selection looks to be more likely for Ward.

Another guy I wanted to expand on is speedster Dri Archer. In their positional rankings Kiper and McShay had him ranked fourth and ninth, respectively, so at least with those two there seems to be some disagreement. Kiper also had Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas ranked fifth, while McShay had him ranked eighth, so it looks like Kiper likes the small, fast, "hybrid-backs" better than McShay does. And, really, that's what it's going to come down to for Archer. Again, size will be a factor since he's listed at 5'8" and 175, which is flat-out unrealistic for a running back (Ray Rice and Maurice Jones-Drew are of a comparable height, but they each weight between 210-220). I mentioned last week that he'll likely be a Dexter McCluster/Trindon Holliday type of player that seems all the more likely this week. Archer met with a few teams in the last week, including the New York Jets.

Also of note, he has quite the thread going on over at r/nfl. That says something, right? Right? Whatever, I think it does.

Lastly, I want to touch on Jordan Lynch a little bit. News actually came out today that he has a visit scheduled with the Chicago Bears for April 18th.

As the story notes, teams only get 30 pre-draft visits for prospects, so this definitely says something. Aside from Jay Cutler the only other quarterbacks on the Bears' roster are Jerrod Johnson (zero career pass attempts) and Jordan Palmer (zero pass attempts since 2010). With Cutler's injury history I find it highly unlikely that those two guys make the team as anything other than a third stringer. That would obviously mean that Chicago is looking at Lynch as a QB, something he himself asserts despite widespread criticism of his skills as a passer. Could the Bears go a similar route that they took in 2010 when they took hometown kid Dan LeFevour, a running quarterback from a MAC school? Given the information provided that seems to be a distinct possibility.

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