My rundown through the entire first round of the NFL draft continues as I examine the Atlanta Falcons who hold the #6 pick in the first round.
The Pick: Khalil Mack – OLB – Buffalo
The Buffalo program typically doesn’t produce very many quality prospects for the NFL draft but in this case they may have a home run in their midst. Khalil Mack has good size and strength but really blows away the field with his athleticism, speed and versatility. Atlanta has not had a true star on their defense since Mike Smith took over as head coach. That would change by drafting Mack.
Why: Might be the best all-around defender in 2014 class
Jadeveon Clowney may have gone first in the draft due to his freakish pass rush potential but Khalil Mack might be the best defender in the 2014 class, period. Not only did he prove last season that he can rush the passer too, he also did everything else. He tracked down ball carriers and got them on the ground, demonstrating range and instinct. Then he dropped back into coverage, read the quarterback and intercepted three passes. The kid can do it all, which is something the Falcons badly need and can build around for the future.
Argument: Jake Matthews is still on the board for Matt Ryan
Matt Ryan is obviously the focal point of the Falcons roster. His success drives their success so keeping him upright and healthy is a priority. Since he joined the team in 2008 he has never worked with what could be considered a true anchor left tackle. Thanks to his ability to sense pressure and get the ball out fast this hasn’t been a huge problem but he could be so much more effective with more time. Jake Matthews out of Texas A&M is still on the board and is the best pass protecting left tackle in the draft. He could do a ton of good for that middle-of-the-road Falcons front.
Counter-argument: Falcons defense finished 29th in sacks
It wasn’t offensive line blocking that landed the Atlanta Falcons yards short of the Super Bowl last January and it wasn’t the primary problem in their demise this past season. The singular biggest issue remains the pass rush. When it goes, they go. Clearly it’s not going enough. The Falcons finished 2013 ranked 29th in quarterback sacks. That is not indicative of a team that can compete for a championship. Mack is a disruptor who can provide that presence on the edge and so much more.
That is why I would take Khalil Mack if I were in charge. What are your thoughts?