Bummed out at the fact that your favorite MAC squad is sitting at home after another exciting basketball season?
Well fear not! We're in the thick of NFL Draft season and, for the second consecutive year, a MACtion superstar has a chance to go number one overall.
Buffalo OLB Khalil Mack has been overshadowed in the media by the trio of quarterbacks and defensive savant Jadeveon Clowney, but most draft pundits have Mack labeled as one of the best talents in this deep draft class.
Over at ESPN, both Todd McShay and Mel Kiper have Mack as the third-best player on their respective draft boards (behind Clowney and Auburn offensive Tackle Greg Robinson). Both guys cite versatility as a big reason for why Mack is so highly regarded; his ability to rush the passer as well as drop back in coverage will make him an even more valuable asset for his future team.
A handful of evaluators have greater confidence re: Buffalo LB Khalil Mack than Jadeveon Clowney. Mack's skills, consistency & versatility— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) March 8, 2014
Despite agreeing on Mack's standing in this draft class, Kiper and McShay go different ways when projecting where he'll fall in May's draft.
McShay has Mack going seventh overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, saying:
"While in some respects Mack wouldn't fill a huge need area, as the "Sam" linebacker in Lovie Smith's defense isn't as important as some other positions, what drives up his value is his versatility. He could cover tight ends when they needed him to and he could also be an impact pass-rusher (something the Bucs lacked last season) when they turned him loose off the edge."
Again, there's the versatility aspect. It's also worth mentioning the comment about tight ends, considering Tampa Bay will have to face Jimmy Graham twice a year.
Kiper, on the other hand, has the Houston Texans taking Mack with the top pick in the draft:
"Mack is a fit in most systems, but he'd excel in this system as a pass-rusher and a player who can back up and make plays in space and to the edges. Houston hasn't been active in free agency, but Mack can fill a role and be a key contributor early for a team that can start winning again. And it's been almost a full year since a player from the MAC went No. 1, right?"
As with McShay's scenario, Mack landing with the Texans would be a great step in building a defense that can compete against a division that forces Houston to face Andrew Luck twice a year. And don't forget the Jaguars, picking third, are in their division two; picking Mack could be a preemptive response to the Jags taking a quarterback or to cancel out them taking Clowney.
As for other major media outlets, the most popular destination for Mack is the Atlanta Falcons at pick number six. CBSSports.com's Will Brinson and Pete Prisco, NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah, and SB Nation's own Dan Kadar all have Mack landing with the Falcons.
Three other NFL.com writers mocked Mack within the top-four: Charles Davis has him landing in Jacksonville, while Chase Goodbread and Matt Smith see him being drafted by the Browns. While both Cleveland and Jacksonville could use a quarterback, all three writers cited the defensive roots of Mike Pettine and Gus Bradley as justification for taking Mack. At this point in the draft process, it's become very clear that Mack is not falling past Tampa Bay at number seven.
Mack is obviously the conference's biggest prospect, but he's just the beginning in terms of NFL talent coming from the MAC.
Three other familiar names rank in Mel Kiper's Top-10 positional rankings: Kent State's Dri Archer (No. 9 Running Back), Northern Illinois's Jimmie Ward (No. 3 Safety), and Toledo's Zac Kerin (No. 10 Center).
Archer made a lot of noise at the combine by running a 4.26 40-yard dash, nearly breaking Chris Johnson's combine record, and reportedly making Johnson nervous in the process.
Can't lie archer had the boi nervous— Chris Johnson (@ChrisJohnson28) February 23, 2014
He'll definitely be drafted, and will likely serve as a Trindon Holliday/Dexter McCluster return man with some looks on offense. In the past five drafts the ninth running back selected fell, on average, towards the back of the fourth round, but I could see him slipping a bit because of his size. NFLDraftScout.com projects him as a late 5th/early 6th-round pick.
Ward is another prospect whose size puts him at a disadvantage in the draft process. He's listed at 5'11" on NIU's website, which isn't great for a safety. Still, he's projected to be a second-rounder by NFLDraftScout.com, and it's worth mentioning that he made an appearance in Mel Kiper's positional rankings back in December; he was eighth among senior safeties at the time.
Lastly, and perhaps most intriguingly, is former Heisman finalist and Huskie quarterback Jordan Lynch. He struggled during the East-West Shrine game, throwing two interceptions on seven attempts, and many have questioned his passing ability. It is worth noting that at his pro day, in addition to throwing drills, he also did some safety drills which he supposedly did pretty well in. NFLDraftScout.com does not project Lynch to be drafted.