In the AFC West, the Oakland Raiders will see a steady diet of successful quarterbacks. Putting pressure on them will be a major key to the Raiders’ success in containing Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Alex Smith in 2014.
Now, the Raiders defense has added perhaps its best piece to accomplish that goal: Khalil Mack.
Thursday night, Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie took Mack, the standout outside linebacker from the University of Buffalo, with the fifth overall pick of the NFL Draft. Though many had predicted McKenzie might trade down to collect extra picks, the caveat to that was that McKenzie might stay at No. 5 if Mack or wide receiver Sammy Watkins were still available.
After Watkins was taken No. 4 by the Buffalo Bills, the Raiders took Mack.
Mack now fits into a remade defense that includes free-agent additions Justin Tuck, Antonio Smith and LaMarr Woodley on the defensive line.
Mack had 10½ sacks with Buffalo last season. Not only can get after the quarterback, he can be a wide-ranging tackler. At Buffalo, his 75 career tackles for loss were the most in major college football since that statistic began to be tracked nationwide in 2000, reported ESPN Stats & Info.
Mack, at 6-foot-2 ½ and 251 pounds, runs a 4.65 40-yard dash and was considered one of the two top defensive players in the draft, along with defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who went No. 1 overall to the Houston Texans. Paired with second-year linebacker Sio Moore on the other side of the Oakland defense, Mack will give Oakland a pair of players with outstanding pass-rush skills.
Many Raiders fans loved the pick, taking to Twitter to laud it. Said one: “Best decision the Raiders have made in the last 12 years!” Wrote another: “Nice pick. Didn’t reach for a QB.” Added a third: “Khalil Mack is probably the best player in the draft. Good pick for my Raiders. Didn’t think we’d be able to get him.”
Former Raiders quarterback and current NFL analyst Rich Gannon agreed, tweeting: “Mack to OAK makes sense. He can be a difference maker right away!”