INDIANAPOLIS — More than a couple of mock drafts have the Tampa Bay Buccaneers spending their first-round pick on Buffalo outside linebacker Khalil Mack. Such a prediction is no doubt confusing to many a Bucs fan.
With Lavonte David emerging as one of the league’s best weakside linebackers and coach Lovie Smith planning to employ a 4-3 scheme that makes limited use of the strongside linebacker, Mack doesn’t seem like a necessity for the Bucs.
Mack, though, is not your average outside linebacker. According to NFL Network game and draft analyst Mike Mayock, the 6-foot-3, 248-pounder with 4.6-second 40-yard-dash speed is arguably the second-best pass rusher in the draft.
“After (South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon) Clowney, I think (Mack) is the most gifted edge (rusher) in this class, and I think regardless of your scheme, you need to draft those kind of guys and play them,’’ Mayock said during a conference call with reporters this week ahead of the annual NFL Scouting Combine, which begins today.
Mack’s skill set makes him a natural fit in a 3-4 scheme, but with 4-3 teams such as the Bucs being forced more and more by passing offenses to play in sub packages and formations, Mack could fit with them as well, Mayock said.
“I think the important thing is that if you are drafting him as a 4 3 team you have to make sure that in nickel and sub situations, you’re freeing him up to go get the quarterback,’’ Mayock said.
“And in today’s NFL, because of the versatility in defenses, I think that’s fine. Four-three teams are doing all kind of different things in sub packages. That’s why I just kind of call (players like Mack) edge guys now.’’
Though they surpassed the 30-sack plateau for the first time since 2007 last season, the Bucs are still considered to be a team in need of an edge rusher. Mayock is among those who believe that is Tampa Bay’s greatest need.
“I think first and foremost, they do need an edge guy,’’ Mayock said when asked what he thought the Bucs’ needs were in this draft. “If Mack was sitting there, he and an offensive tackle would be of interest to me.
“And one or two of (the best) offensive tackles should be there, but I think they also need a new-age tight end. If they (keep the seventh pick) and gave their quarterback another weapon, I’d be all for it.’’