Khalil Mack's ability as a pass rusher cannot be overstated and is the biggest reason he's going to go early in the first round of the draft.
Former NFL general manager Charley Casserly said Friday on NFL Network's "NFL AM" that if "you want to say (Jadeveon) Clowney is the best pass rusher, Mack is 1A -- he's right behind him."
Mack (6-foot-3, 251 pounds) was an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense in college at Buffalo. He set an NCAA career record with 16 forced fumbles and is tied for first in NCAA history with 75 tackles for loss; he is tied with former Western Michigan defensive end Jason Babin, who started for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2013. Mack also had 28.5 career sacks.
That pass-rush ability could be enticing, Casserly said, to Jacksonville, which needs an edge rusher and picks third. Casserly hinted that he thought the pick would come down to Mack and Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins. The Jaguars also need a go-to wide receiver, and Watkins is the best receiving prospect in this draft.
Last month, Jaguars coach Gus Bradley waxed poetic on Mack during a segment on "Schein on Sports" with NFL Media's Adam Schein on SiriusXM's Mad Dog Sports Radio. "He's one of those guys you feel like that's going to play for a long time; just extremely talented," Bradley said.
Casserly also talked about five other players he said he would keep an eye on in the draft:
LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.: Casserly called him the third-best receiver in this draft and said Beckham is "a faster Michael Crabtree." But Casserly isn't sure where Beckham will go in the first round. He says Watkins and Texas A&M's Mike Evans are going to go early, "but I don't see a receiver coming back into play until the Jets at 18, Philly at 22 and Kansas City at 23."
Notre Dame offensive tackle Zack Martin: Casserly called him an "excellent technician" and said he is the fourth-best tackle in the draft, behind Auburn's Greg Robinson, Texas A&M's Jake Matthews and Michigan's Taylor Lewan. Casserly said the top three tackles "conceivably" could be taken in the first six picks, which would increase Martin's value because numerous teams outside the top 10 want tackles. There will be "a lot of suitors for the fourth tackle," Casserly said, mentioning the New York Giants at No. 12, Pittsburgh at No. 15, Miami at No. 19 and Arizona at No. 20. Martin has added value because of his versatility. While Casserly thinks he will be drafted as a tackle, "I think he can be an all-pro guard."
Alabama offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio: Alabama tackle D.J. Fluker went 11th overall last year, and Casserly called Kouandjio "a better prospect" than Fluker. Kouandjio is another who will benefit from teams needing tackles. Casserly called him "a true No. 1 pick, talent-wise," but did say there were questions about the health of his knees and his ability to handle speed rushers. Casserly said he would start Kouandjio out as a left tackle, and if he had trouble, he would be a good fit on the right side. He also said that if a team is told by doctors that Kouandjio can give them "a good four or five years" before his knees truly become a concern, the team should grab him anyway.
Alabama inside linebacker C.J. Mosley: Casserly compared him to Carolina Panthers tackle machine Luke Kuechly but said Mosley is "more athletic." Casserly said Mosley is a future Pro Bowler whose value is a bit less than expected because he is not a pass rusher.
UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr: Casserly said Barr is the third-best pass rusher in a draft that has "very few" pass rushers. Barr might go higher than he should because of that. Casserly also said he could see Dallas -- which picks 16th and needs a pass rusher -- drafting Barr and making him a defensive end. That fits what Barr has said about the Cowboys.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at email@example.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.