In 2014, the Raiders hit the draft jackpot.
Oakland needed a quarterback, but also needed elite playmakers all over the field, so general manager Reggie McKenzie’ approach was to select the best player available. So, with the fifth pick in the first round he took outside linebacker Khalil Mack. Then, in the second round, McKenzie was able to get quarterback Derek Carr.
Now the two rank as cornerstones of a rising franchise, and every season it’s becoming more apparent that McKenzie was a wise man to go for Mack with his first choice.
Recently, Mack was voted as the Defensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press after a season in which he had 11 sacks, an NFL-leading 96 quarterback pressures, had five forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, an interception for a touchdown and 16 tackles for loss.
Now, the writers for the analytic website Pro Football Focus have selected Mack as the fourth-best player in the NFL this past season behind only Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Mack ranked just above this season’s NFL MVP, quarterback Matt Ryan of the Falcons.
That puts Mack in some heady company.
Wrote Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus: “Generating pressure is often not enough for some when it comes to judging pass rushers. They need to see game-changing, impact plays. That’s the step forward Khalil Mack took in 2016.”
Monson pointed to Mack’s game against the Panthers, when he intercepted Cam Newton for a TD and then sealed a victory with a strip-sack.
“Mack was the game’s most complete edge defender this season, and a true impact player for the Oakland defense,” wrote Monson.
In 2015, Mack ranked as PFF’s sixth-best player in the league.