In the great debate surrounding Buffalo's Khalil Mack and UCLA's Anthony Barr, whom most experts consider the 2014 draft's two best linebackers, NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah says the difference between them boils down to two things: versatility and violence.
While Jeremiah likes Barr's speed and burst coming off the edge, he favors Mack because he believes Mack rates higher in and possesses more of those two football qualities.
"I think Khalil Mack is just more of a violent football player," Jeremiah said on NFL Network's "Path to the Draft." "He's got more shock in his hands. And we talk about versatility, Khalil Mack has that interception production. I've seen him drop in zones, I've seen his instincts in coverage. I don't worry about him there.
"With Anthony Barr, I love him more on the backside of plays," he said. "Let him run and chase. You see that speed, you see that burst. ... I like him more as a blitzer than a rusher. ... But on the front side of blocks, I don't see a real strong, stout guy."
One concern that's often used against Mack's status as a top prospect is that he was a standout in the MAC and not a power conference such as the SEC. But Jeremiah has no such concerns when it comes to the strength of competition Mack faced in college.
"You take that into account, but you watch the Ohio State tape, and he was phenomenal. He was dominant," Jeremiah said, referring to Buffalo's Aug. 31 meeting against the Buckeyes last season, when Mack had 9.5 tackles, 2.5 sacks and an interception. "He was a man amongst boys."
Jeremiah also pointed to three top pass rushers in the NFL who also came from smaller schools: the Broncos' DeMarcus Ware, who went to Troy; the Colts' Robert Mathis, who went to Alabama A&M; and free-agent DE Jared Allen, who went to Idaho State.
Jeremiah said he believes Mack has the versatility to play in a 4-3 and 3-4 defense, but especially likes him as a 3-4 outside linebacker because of the matchups he'd be facing.
"As a 3-4 outside linebacker, you're going to spend a lot of time against tight ends," Jeremiah said. "And with the strength and the shcok that he has in his hands, he is going to destroy some of these soft NFL tight ends. He won't have any trouble in that position."
Mack recently was named one of NFL Media senior analyst Gil Brandt's nine prospects worthy of the No. 1 overall pick, which goes to show not only the depth of talent atop this year's draft, but also the difficulty in projecting each prospect's draft position. The latest NFL.com mock drafts illustrate this, with Mack going as high as No. 3 to Jacksonville and as low as No. 11 to Tennessee.
And as Jeremiah acknowledged after Friday's trade of former Texans QB Matt Schaub to the Raiders, a lot can -- and probably will -- still change with the draft picture between now and May 8.
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