LB Khalil Mack is entering his second year in the NFL. He certainly has the attention of his opponents and the media.
Oakland Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack's selection with the 5th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft didn't come as a big surprise. Although Mack didn't register a sack until Week 11, opposing teams felt his impact at the point of attack. Week in and week out, analysts around the country pointed out his run-stuffing ability. Mack finished fourth on the team in total tackles with 76.
If he didn't before, Mack certainly has everyone's attention now.
Two weeks after Oakland Raiders safety Charles Woodson was named to NFL Network's Top 100 Players of 2015 list at No. 64, second-year linebacker Khalil Mack made his debut on the list at No. 49. The Top 100 is voted on and chosen by fellow NFL players.
NFL.com's Dan Hanzus wrote this week that Khalil Mack's membership in "The Superstar Club 2015" is all but assured:
"Khalil Mack was a home run pick at fifth overall in 2014. Mack showed all the signs of future stardom as a rookie, getting to the quarterback with regularity, stuffing the run and being a general menace for opposing offenses."
THE MMQB 100 - 85. Khalil Mack, Linebacker, Oakland Raiders
No player had a greater discrepancy between his performance and his statistics last season than Khalil Mack. That's a good thing. His four sacks represented a small fraction of the damage he actually inflicted as a pass rusher. The litheness and bendability he showed at tiny University of Buffalo translated seamlessly to the NFL, where Mack consistently ate offensive tackles alive with his lateral burst and redirect ability. His sack total—the only mainstream stat for an edge defender—was the only statistic that misrepresented Mack. Unofficially he had 40 "hurries," and he drew eight holding penalties, second-most in the league. He also shined against the run. The Raiders have fielded a consistently weak defense during their 12-year playoff drought, but in Mack they have a game-changing talent. Don't be surprised if the second-year pro is a first-team All-Pro in 2015.
Pro Football Focus picked Mack as their 1st Runner Up for Defensive Rookie of the Year, stating, "Not until the final game of the regular season against the Broncos did Mack earn a single game grade below +1.0 as he racked up 42 stops in run defense as an ultra-disruptive force against opposing ground attacks. His 14 tackles for loss were bettered by only DeAndre Levy and Lavonte David (16 apiece) as he took on a similar role to Von Miller in Denver. He was not the same threat as a pass rusher, but a stronger and more consistent force as a run defender."
In his NFL 2015: Projecting the All-Pro teams article, Matt Verdame picks Mack for the 2015 All-Pro squad.
Verdame writes, "Mack was excellent as a rookie and should only improve in 2015."
ESPN's Jeffri Chadiha recently wrote nearly 2,000 words on the second-year linebacker, predicting nothing short of stardom.
Chadiha wrote in his piece, Khalil Mack is busy paving a path to stardom, about the moments when it became evident the game wasn't too big for the small school phenom:
"A few plays later, Mack was even more determined, as he noticed Texans backup tight end Ryan Griffin lining up across from him. I played against this guy in college, Mack thought to himself. If he's out here, I know I can play this game at a high level. Mack easily tossed Griffin aside on a couple more runs to remind the former UConn star that little had changed now that they were competing on football's biggest stage."
When the season starts it will be time for Mack to prove worthy of the words written and spoken about him.