Oakland Raiders: Khalil Mack’s emergence as potential first overall pick changes draft outlook


Dec 21, 2013; Boise, ID, USA; Buffalo Bulls linebacker Khalil Mack (46) during the second half of the Idaho Potato Bowl verse the San Diego State Aztecs at Bronco Stadium. San Diego defeated Buffalo 49-24. Mandatory Credit: Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

It was to be expected that the Monday before the 2014 NFL Draft was going to provide plenty of rumors, reports and curveballs that somehow would manage to undo months of reporting and research for NFL draft fans. With front offices getting closer to the final hour, insiders are finding out more information while teams are also “blowing smoke” at much higher rates as they try to throw their fellow front offices off the trail making the final days leading up to the draft a task for fans to figure out what is truly likely to happen when the draft officially begins.

The latest in a string of recent reports surrounding the Houston Texans has the team going the complete opposite direction of the consensus that defensive end Jadeveon Clowney will be the first name selected in the NFL Draft. Now, just days leading up to the draft the team has now been attached to either trading down or potentially taking Buffalo OLB Khalil Mack with the first overall pick in the morning hours on Monday.

ESPN’s Ed Werder reported that teams believe that the Texans will trade down, while Peter King’s MMQB column revealed that respected league insider Gil Brandt expects Mack to be selected ahead of Clowney on Thursday.

From King’s MMQB Column:

"Ten things, from 1 to 32.From the top of the first round to the bottom, here’s what I’m hearing:No. 1, Houston. The buzz about a trade-down or Khalil Mack to Houston instead of Jadeveon Clowney won’t die. The Texans are doing a good job of sending mixed signals to the GM community, that’s for sure. Mack’s in the dark, which is to be expected. I can’t see Atlanta mortgaging the farm on any player, so if the Texans want to trade down, the return likely won’t be a ransom.I asked Mike Mayock, Todd McShay, Mel Kiper and Gil Brandt, “When round one is over Thursday night, tell me a story line or two that will surprise people.”Brandt: “I don’t think Teddy Bridgewater falls to the second round. I think Johnny Manziel will go in the top five, but not number one. And I think Khalil Mack gets picked ahead of Jadeveon Clowney.”"

If Mack is truly rated that highly by the Texans, who are looking less and less like they are planning on bringing on Clowney, the draft outlook for many teams that were hoping to secure the Buffalo outside linebacker in the Top 5 would significantly change. That includes the Oakland Raiders, who potentially could have Mack at the top of their board at #5 as well as the likes of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons who all could be in the mix for either Mack or Clowney.

Should Clowney slide past the first pick that would also trade the outlook of the teams near the top of draft drastically as well. Do the Rams pick up another pass rusher to add to their loaded crop of talent, making Sammy Watkins fall to #3? Do the Jaguars then pick up Watkins, which would surely make the Raiders interested in trading down with Clowney/Mack/Watkins all off the board and teams like the Lions and Niners reportedly interested in Mike Evans?

One thing may be certain and that is that the absence of an elite talent being available for the Raiders at #5 could almost assure that Reggie McKenzie will be working the phones looking for a trade down possibility if he feels that he can get similar value a few picks later on with the three biggest impact players in the Top 5 off the board. Something that is looking more and more likely as Mack continues to earn more praise than criticism as teams like what they are seeing from the versatile small-school linebacker.

There are a lot of unanswered questions with just a few days left until the NFL Draft and fans (along with most reporters/insiders if we are being honest) are still completely left in the dark. Today’s recent reports only prove that when it comes to what is going to happen on Thursday the only certainty is that we all have relatively zero idea of what the Houston Texans will do with the first overall pick and how that will effect the Oakland Raiders and the other teams in the first round of this year’s draft.