If we’re keeping score, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is ahead of Khalil Mack.
Clowney was the No. 1 pick of last week’s NFL draft, going to the Texans. Mack was selected fifth overall by the Raiders.
But Mack, an outside linebacker with great range and a talent for getting to the quarterback, may have something that Clowney doesn’t have: a chip on his shoulder. And that may take him to greater heights than Clowney in 2014 and beyond.
Mack’s work ethic is highly regarded, and some analysts and scouts believe Mack was the better pro prospect in the draft. Gregg Easterbrook of ESPN.com’s Tuesday Morning Quarterback is one who believes Mack is likely to be a better pro than Clowney.
“Clowney, the first defensive player taken, received dozens of college recruiting offers,” wrote Easterbrook this week. “Khalil Mack, the second defensive player taken, received just one scholarship offer, from the University of Buffalo. … Clowney has been an athletic celebrity since high school; Mack was an athletic nobody till last fall.
“Celebrities tend to want to lie on the beach sipping mai tais, while nobodies tend to be driven. Don’t be surprised if over the next five years, Mack significantly outworks Clowney.”
Also, in a poll of six NFL analysts at NFL.com, who were asked to pick the NFL’s Offensive and Defensive Rookies of the Year for 2014, Mack received as many votes as Clowney. Gil Brandt, the former Dallas Cowboys talent evaluator, wrote that he believes Mack landed with the perfect team. The Raiders will find ways to make the best use of Mack’s talents, he says.
“Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver is a mad scientist with schemes,” Brandt wrote. “He will take advantage of Mack’s unbelievable pass-rushing talents and design game plans around his new defensive rock. I would be surprised if Mack failed to record double-digit sacks as a rookie.”
Mack has been compared by some to Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews. But Raiders head coach Dennis Allen compares Mack to Von Miller, the Broncos’ pass-rushing phenom who has had 35 sacks in 40 games as a pro.
As a collegian, Mack had 28½ sacks in 48 games and 75 tackles for loss.
After being drafted by the Raiders, Mack acknowledged that he believes he was the best defensive player in the draft. And he’d like to prove it.
“I’m at the point now where I’m tired of talking and I want to go out and start proving a little bit. … I cannot wait,” he said.