An early look at the 2014 NFL Draft and where Mack may end up.
Before I begin, I'd like to introduce myself. My name is John McWhinnie, a current student at UB, and a bit of a self-proclaimed "draftnik". I enjoy watching football, but love analyzing it; I suppose it appeals to my meticulous nature and attention to detail as an engineering student. This is my first ever post to Bull Run so I hope you'll excuse an editing errors, etc. Anyway, on to the draft! I'll be looking at 3 teams I feel most likely to pick Mack, and one darkhorse team that could take him if he slips in the draft. Hopefully it'll spark a good discussion as to where we'll see Mack play on Sundays.
After a disastrous 4-12 season in which the Atlanta defense gave up a whopping 443 points, good for 6th worst in the NFL; and only generated 31 sacks, which was good for 3rd worst in the NFL; head coach Mike Smith, and GM Thomas Dimitroff will be looking for a pass rushing option that can help solidify the defense and put the Falcons back on track in the NFC South. Pass rush is a must for an Atlanta team that faces the likes of Drew Brees, and Cam Newton 4 times a year. This is about as early as I could see Mack going, given the Quarterback needy teams drafting in the top 10, so it could be very likely that someone like Anthony Barr, or even Jadeveon Clowney could still be available at this point.
However, the Falcons could be tempted to pull the trigger given the severe lack of pass rushing options on the roster outside of the aging Johnathan Babineaux, and Osi Umenyiora. Mack would immediately step into a starting role as the "Sam" linebacker in Atlanta's 4-3 defense opposite Sean Weatherspoon.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A reunion with former Bull Steven Means? It's a real possibility. Especially with the recent hiring of Head Coach Lovie Smith, who will surely install his famous Tampa 2 defense which requires edge linebackers that can cover in space and move sideline-to-sideline. Outside of Lavonte David, the Buccaneers don't have much in the way of linebackers. In comes Mack, who will bring the punch that the Bucs had been lacking on defense under former coach Greg Schiano. The Buccaneers accumulated 35 sacks last season, and are very much in the same boat as the Falcons, no pass rush against Brees and Newton can be a total nightmare. Mack just may be the man to help fix that.
This seems to be a very popular pick among the draft experts. I'm a bit shaky on the Bills taking Mack. Given the success of Mike Pettine's defense the linebacker position may not be the most pressing need, especially given the condition of the Bills' offensive line, and the lack of size in the receiving corps I can see the Bills going in any direction with their pick. But, imagine if you're a QB lining up against this defense:
Especially with Mack's ability to drop into coverage, he's much more suited than Nigel Bradham/Jerry Hughes to be an every down player in the Bills' defense. The addition of Mack could make the Bills' D one of the best in the NFL.
I have to admit I have a bit of a bias on this one being a diehard Cardinals fan. But, if Mack were to fall to the 20th overall pick, there is no doubt in my mind that they would take Mack. With the ageless wonder John Abraham being the first Cardinal since 2004 to record double digit sacks, its an understatement to say that the edge rush has been lacking. However, that's not to say the Cardinals' defense was bad, in fact, it was the best in the NFL against the run, and in the top 10 in sacks. But most of the pass rush came from the inside linebacker position, and from the defensive line, and the aforementioned Abraham. Adding Mack would give the Cardinals one of the best pure pass rushers the franchise has ever had and would help further bolster Todd Bowles' top 10 defense which is needed, especially when facing the likes of Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson in the brutal NFC West.
Thank you for reading, hopefully this is the first of many posts to come. And as always Go Bulls!