We're no longer counting down weeks our days until the NFL Draft begins; we've reached the point where we're just counting down the hours. So, for one last time, let's see what our favorite draft pundits are saying with in our final mock draft roundup. As usual, let's start out with Khalil Mack.
The closest we've gotten to the start of the big night, something occurred to me that has become more and more apparent: this is going to be a pretty goofy draft. It's being held two weeks later than usual, giving teams more time to break down tape and evaluate players. I can assure you that time isn't being spent talking about how great a prospect is or what a nice boy he is; it's being spent picking apart every single flaw, no matter how big or how small. How else can you explain the rumors that Teddy Bridgewater might fall to the second round?
This was really just a roundabout way of saying that, in a recently posted article on ESPN (Insider req'd) I saw, for the first time, concerns being raised about Mack. Here's some of what was said:
"Mack was a small-school player, and he projects only as a 3-4 outside linebacker (not a 4-3 defensive end); his lack of pure speed could hurt him against NFL athletes with superior length...If they projected him as a stand-up rush guy, teams could take him a lot higher, but I don't know. He would make me nervous."
Now, I don't think it's possible that Mack legitimately drops during the draft, but I have to say this is the first time I've heard the words "he would make me nervous" in reference to him. That's obviously just one person's opinion, though, as most mock drafts have him securely in the top-5. Kiper and McShay (both Insider) have him going fifth to Oakland, and seven of eight NFL.com writers have him going in the top-5 too, with the lone exception being Bucky Brooks, who has him going eighth to Minnesota. Our sister site, Mocking The Draft, has Mack to Oakland as well. CBSSports.com does everybody one better and has Mack going in the top-3 of all five of their mocks, including Pat Kirwan, who has Mack going number one overall.
"If your draft board says this is the best player, just take him and don't worry about what people say. Don't trade down and risk losing both him and Jadeveon Clowney." -Kirwan (can't argue with that logic).
Speaking of draft boards, Kiper and McShay (both Insider) also agree on having Mack as the third-ranked prospect in the draft. As a matter of fact, they each ranked at least 100 prospects this time around (McShay outdid Kiper and ranked a whopping 300 prospects, that show-off), so it's a good opportunity to see where some other MAC guys stack up.
Starting with Kiper, he has Jimmie Ward as his 33rd ranked prospect and Dri Archer as number 71. That would put Ward at the very start of the second round and Archer towards the front of the first round, which would both be best-case scenarios in my opinion. McShay ranks Ward a little lower, at 46, but he also refers to him as a "poor man's Earl Thomas" which is a heck of a compliment. (SB Nation's Matthew Fairburn has Ward going No. 17 overall to Baltimore). He also bumped Archer down significantly, putting him at 98th and 9th among running backs (Kiper has him as his 4th-ranked RB).
Going deeper into McShay's rankings, his next MAC guys don't come around until the 200's: Jonathan Newsome at 219, T.J. Carrie at 223, Keith Wenning at 235, Willie Snead at 278, and Rob Blanchflower at 291. Of those guys listed, Wenning has been the guy with the most buzz. He's worked out for several teams, including the Packers, Patriots, and Ravens, all of which would give him a good chance to sit back and learn an NFL offense.
We've checked the sources, read the mocks, and scoured the rankings. Now all that's left to do is watch. Let the games begin.