2014 NFL Draft Rumors: Will Khalil Mack Go No. 1?

The beast from Buffalo is about as close to a sure-thing NFL star as you'll find in this year's Draft class. - Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Spor

With just a handful of days to go until the 2014 NFL Draft begins, rumors are heating up that stud University at Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack could be taken No. 1 overall.

As a journalist I've been trained to both love and hate rumors. From a matter of principle, rumors go against what I've been trained to do: verify things in sound facts. But being a human being, it's undeniable that rumors are fun and, I know all too well that while most rumors are ludicrous in nature, some some can actually lead to big breaks in news and are worth examination.

Take for instance the rumors surrounding the 2014 NFL Draft. Every year as we prepare for the NFL's holy meat market where player's are auctioned off to the highest bidder (in this case instead of money, teams use Draft picks), we're bombarded with Draft rumors. With this year's meat market pushed back to a later date than ever before, the rumor mill has been kicked into overdrive. While many NFL rumors are nothing more than the uneducated masses spouting off nonsense, some carrey weight, and the closer we get to the Draft itself, the clearer those become.

The rumors surrounding Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack's spot in the Draft are  exactly those type of rumors. Typically, what happens is the team with the No. 1 pick hems and haws about who they'll take, before ultimately confirming some of the rumors by signing a player a week, or a few days, before the big day.

But this year is different. Despite having more time to lock up their No. 1 pick than any other team before them, the Houston Texans have yet to sign anyone. While some believe this is a sign that they're considering trading the top pick, others—those much more informed than you, or I, on the workings of NFL front offices—believe this could mean that Mack is a potential match for that No. 1 pick.

NFL insider Ian Rapoport believes that if not traded, the Texans' top pick could be used on Mack. It makes sense. If the Texans were 100 percent sold on Jadeveon Clowney, they'd likely have agreed to terms with him already, and while he's arguably the most talented player in this Draft class, Mack may be the most polished.

Hell, some think Mack is the next Lawrence Taylor, which makes the idea of him going No. 1 overall more palatable.

Rapoport isn't the only one who believes this to be a strong possibility, either. In Peter King's May 5, 2014 Monday Morning Quarterback column longtime NFL insider Gil Brandt is quoted as to believing that Mack will go ahead of Clowney in this Draft.

A natural outside linebacker, Mack could be plugged into Houston's 3-4 defensive scheme and be a Pro Bowler from Day 1. He has played the position for the past four years at an elite level. His athleticism is off the charts compared to other outside linebackers, and his instincts are top notch. He knows how to be a force in the pass rush from this stand up position. He can drop back into the flats and cover as well. Clowney is a freak, no doubt, but he's not used to playing outside linebacker (he was a traditional hand-in-the-dirt edge rusher) and would need some time to adjust. He's a once-in-a lifetime talent, sure, but Mack is also a fantastic talent and would be the best fit for Houston's defense, and probably the safer pick.

Now more than likely, what will happen is Mack will wind up going No. 3 overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars, but Houston's GM, Rick Smith, is believed  to prefer Mack over Clowney, so as we get closer to Draft Day, and the Texans haven't made a Clowney pick official, there's reason to believe it could mean that Mack is going No. 1 overall.

But to throw a little dirt on the fire, as King accurately points out, Houston is also keeping Mack in the dark, and this could all be a smokescreen to drive up interest in that No. 1 pick:

The Texans are doing a good job of sending mixed signals to the GM community, that's for sure. Mack's in the dark, which is to be expected.

This could all be a ploy to try to get someone to give Houston a king's ransom for that top pick, or even just a way to keep people buzzing up until the very moment the Texans take Clowney. Plus, the Texans' owner is on record as to saying Clowney is the best fit. But damn, wouldn't it be fun to see the former 2-star linebacker with only one FBS offer, who wore No. 46 in college to represent the ranking EA Sports' NCAA franchise gave him, go No. 1 overall?

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