Ranking the Oakland Raiders Top Five Pass Rushers

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Dec 7, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders outside linebacker Khalil Mack (52) celebrates behind San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore (21) after a Raiders sack against the 49ers during the second quarter at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

1. Khalil Mack

There should be no surprise here.

Khalil Mack is the star of the Oakland Raiders defense and is unquestionably the team’s most talented pass rusher, possibly one of the league’s top edge-rushers when looking his potential.

After being drafted with the fifth overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft, Mack exploded onto the NFL scene. In his rookie year Mack earned four sacks and 75 combined tackles, as he went on to become one of the runner-ups for Defensive Rookie of the Year.

According to Raiders.com, Pro Football Focus graded Mack as the top overall 4-3 outside linebacker in 2014.

There are high expectations for Mack to dominate during his sophomore season as one of the top outside linebacker’s in the NFL, but Del Rio believes that he is versatile enough to have substantial success along the defensive line as well.

“He plays defensive end for us already in sub packages,” Del Rio told at a breakfast at the NFL owners meetings according to Williamson. “So, I think it would be natural for him to be able to play whatever we decide is best for him, how it helps the team best. The number of sub snaps in the league has gone up dramatically each year. Up to 70 percent of your snaps you’re facing three- and four-receiver sets and so a sub packages where Khalil is an end is the one that really is the most prominent. He’s definitely shown he’s got ability to be an edge rusher, a defensive end, he is that in that capacity. I feel like it’s how we best want to utilize him and who we have around him as well.”

As a defensive end Mack has all of the physical tools and natural ability to even exceed expectations as an edge-rusher, and if he puts his hand in the ground as often as Del Rio wants him to, he will put up huge sack numbers in 2015.

The former University at Buffalo prospect has also earned high praise from new teammate and fellow linebacker Curtis Lofton.

“He comes every day to work,” Lofton said according to Williamson. “He studies and goes out there and executes it on the football field. Some guys, if they have a good year that first year as rookies, they are Mr. Joe Cool and that’s not him. He comes to work every single day.”

Reporters like Albert Breer have also frequently expressed their favorable option of Mack.

The appreciation for Mack’s ability will only continue as his career moves forward, and it is comforting to say that the Oakland Raiders have finally found a dominant edge-rusher as the centerpiece of their defense.