Buffalo OLB Mack viewed as a dark horse for first overall pick

1/31/14 in NFL   |   Matthew_Shovlin   |   735 respect

When speaking of players that the Houston Texans could select with the first overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, there are really only two names that come to most people's minds - Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Bridgewater is widely considered to be the best quarterback prospect in the draft, displaying fantastic accuracy and pocket movement, traits that are sure to intrigue new Texans head coach Bill O'Brien. Clowney, on the other hand, is an absolute freak of nature who many believe is a once-a-decade type prospect.

Nov 29, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Bulls linebacker Khalil Mack (46) during the first half against the Bowling Green Falcons at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY SportsWhen broken down like that, it is hard to imagine the Texans selecting any other player with their coveted No. 1 overall draft pick. A new player, however, has emerged as a potential candidate to be selected at the top of this year's draft. According to Rob Rang of CBS Sports, "some view [Buffalo outside linebacker Khalil Mack] as a dark horse candidate for the Texans at No. 1 overall."

The report is surprising, but it doesn't come out of nowhere. Mack has dominated college football for years, racking up all-time records of 16 forced fumbles and 75 tackles for a loss. His combination of size and balance/agility make for a lethal edge rushing presence. Rotoworld's Josh Norris has had Mack rated above fellow outside linebacker Anthony Barr (UCLA) for some time now, recently ranking him as the No. 4 prospect in the entire draft - it looks like others are starting to take notice of the small school stud (by "small school" I just mean lesser known football program - Buffalo has about 30,000 students).

There are also some critics of Mack, however, such as Bucky Brooks of NFL.com, who criticizes him mainly because he is not "in the mold of Von Miller." Miller, of course, very well may be the best outside linebacker in football, so that is some pretty unfair criticism. Contrarily, an AFC scout back in December reportedly said that Mack resembles Miller from a "size/speed standpoint." If the Texans feel that Mack will be as good - or close to as good - as Miller, they very well could take him with the first pick. Who knows, maybe that anonymous AFC scout works for the Texans.

One of the most productive defenders in the history of college football, Mack is certainly a name to watch as the draft grows near. At this point, he looks like a top-10 lock, and his stock seems to be on the rise. A few weeks ago, I said that Barr was the wild card option for the Texans at No. 1 overall. Apparently, I picked the wrong ultra-talented linebacker. I'd now like to give Mack the "wild card" designation for the Texans' first overall pick.
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