Most people would point to South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney as the best defensive prospect in this year's draft class. But NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock is not most people, and Mayock points to another prospect when discussing the best the 2014 draft class has to offer.
His name is Khalil Mack.
"I think he's one of the best two or three players in this draft," Mayock proclaimed. "I'm gonna tell you right now, I'd take him with the first pick, let alone the eighth pick. That's how I feel about Khalil Mack."
Whoa. Mayock made the statement while visiting with Voice of the Vikings Paul Allen during his daily radio show, which he broadcast on Thursday and Friday from radio row at the Combine with Paul Charchian as co-host.
When asked what he thought the Vikings should do with the eighth overall selection, Mayock said he hopes a quarterback the Vikings love is available. If not, though, Mayock explained he would pound the table for Mack. Check out his NFL.com Draft Profile here.
Spending such a high pick on an outside linebacker is unusual, particularly for a team that runs a defense with a four-man front. But Mayock explained that going the unusual route is appropriate because Mack is such an unusual prospect – a prospect who, despite playing at a small school, dominated big-school competition and a prospect who has the versatility any defense can use.
"Khalil Mack can play anywhere in the front," Mayock said. "Here he is, a kid from the University of Buffalo, if you put the tape on against Ohio State, he dominates Ohio State like nobody I've ever seen dominate them. He's explosive off the edge, he's tough, he's twitchy, he's got a little edge about him. When I watch him on tape, I feel like he's pissed off at the world. And I like that.
"Then you put on the tape, I think it was against Kent State, and he drops into coverage like a safety. Reads the quarterbacks eyes, undercuts a route, one-handed interception, and I'm going 'What can't this kid do?'"
Pressed further on if Mack, described by Mayock himself as "a prototype 3-4 outside linebacker" would set up with the Vikings, Mayock was emphatic.
"Mack sets up for everyone. He can play SAM (strongside linebacker), and in today's NFL where you sub-packages are on the field seventy percent of the time, that's where he's gonna really shine, in pass rush situations. You can rush him, you can drop him (in coverage). He can play anywhere in the front.
"You talk about a guy like (Jadeveon) Clowney, who's got just super-human abilities versus this kid (Mack), and if I had a choice between the two, I think I'm going Mack."