2014 NFL Draft: Khalil Mack Should Shine In Oakland's Defense

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Spor

The former Mid-American Conference defensive player of the year landed in Oakland in the NFL Draft, and is expected to take on a hybrid defensive end/linebacker role for the Raiders.

For all the talk of Khalil Mack potentially going No. 1 overall, the more likely scenario of him going No. 5 to Oakland is what actually happened. The former Buffalo standout was passed over by Jacksonville (another likely landing spot) who went for Blake Bortles at No. 3, and even the Buffalo Bills, who traded up to No. 4, passed on the local college hero to get Sammy Watkins. That placed Mack directly in the Raiders' laps, and they jumped on him.

"There was zero back and forth. We knew who we wanted," Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said in a press conference after the Draft.

Some believed Oakland would trade up or down if they really wanted a specific player, our weren't in love with their options at five.

"We got some offers, even before our pick came," McKenzie said. "But no deal was presented, only interest. Once Khalil fell to us, we had a couple of calls. At that point, I wasn't taking any."

Oakland was in love with Mack from the beginning of his scouting process according to McKenzie and the team's head coach, Dennis Allen. The thing that impressed them the most was the way Mack stood out to them on film. His versatility and creativeness in getting after the quarterback, and the way even top level teams like Ohio State struggled to contain him.

Mackenzie wasn't concerned about Mack playing in the Mid-American Conference.

"Yeah, we were very comfortable with not only the number of games but also in the league he played in. He was a real player on the field and he showed that. We don't see anything but upside with him. He is going to get better."

Mack may have landed in the best spot for him to grow. Oakland is rebuilding its identity and has an almost completely revamped defense. The team went out and signed veteran pass rushers Justin Tuck, Antonio Smith and Lamarr Woodley this offseason, and added a veteran corner in Tarell Brown. Now Mack is in a position to be the young anchor of the defense, and a player the team can continue to build around for the future.

However, Mack won't be used in the exact same fashion he was in Buffalo. Oakland runs a 4-3 defense, not the 3-4 Mack is used to, and the system that made him a near perfect fit for Houston and Jacksonville (two teams that passed on him). In Oakland expect Mack to play a little bit of everything. He'll play on the defensive line, he'll be a stand up edge rusher, and he'll play some linebacker.

"This is an impact player. This guy will have an impact on our football team for the 2014 season - there is no question about that," head coach Dennis Allen said at the press conference.

"He can do everything that we're going to ask him to do ..." Allen continued.

One of Mack's best assets, and obviously something Oakland valued in him, is his versatility. While he did play in a 3-4 at Buffalo, he was forced to do a lot of different things for the Bulls out of necessity. He had to play with his hand in the dirt on occasions, he had to drop back in coverage and hang with slots and tight ends.

In that way, Oakland may be the best place for him to put his versatility to work. While his role won't be exactly the same as it was in college, it won't be all too different either. The Raiders won't shoehorn him into one specific role. They'll use his power rushing skills, his edge rushing skills and his coverage skills in a package that should allow Mack to terrorize offenses from all over. Expect a role similar to what Von Miller does for Oakland's rival, the Denver Broncos.

Before taking over as Oakland's head coach, Allen was Miller's defensive coordinator in Denver and knows exactly how to use a player like Mack to maximize his skills.

"I saw a lot of similarities between him and Von Miller," Allen said. "He understands how to rush the passer."

Allen wouldn't specifically confirm what Mack's role will be in Oakland's defense, but made it clear he'll be expected to do a lot.

"I'll tell you this, he is, obviously, going to have a big role in what we're going to do, and he'll be a guy that we're going to use to send after the quarterback in a variety of different ways ... He will have his hand in the ground some too, yeah. I envision his role being very similar to what we did with Von Miller," Allen added.

Considering how successful Mack was in college at getting into the backfield, this is great news. With other dynamic pass rushers in Oakland's defense clogging up the offensive line, that should make it easier for Mack to get after the quarterback, using his freakish athleticism to explode into the backfield.

As for Mack, he's tired of talking and just wants to show the NFL why Oakland took him at No. 5.

" ... I’m at the point where I’m tired of talking and I’m ready to go out there and proving a little bit of this stuff. I can’t wait. I cannot wait," Mack said.

Neither can the Silver and Black.

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