Thursday, April 17, 2014
Buffalo's Mack to visit Falcons next week
By Vaughn McClure
Add another top name to the list of draft prospects the Atlanta Falcons plan to bring to town.
Outside linebacker Khalil Mack from Buffalo is scheduled to visit the Falcons next week, according to a league source. Mack is considered a top-5 pick, and at least one draft expert touted him as the top player in this year’s draft class -- even ahead of South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney.
Although the Falcons own the sixth overall draft pick, they obviously are doing extensive homework on all the top prospects that could be available to them and fill their biggest needs: offensive tackle and pass-rusher. Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews also is visiting next week, along with Mack and Clowney.
Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson reportedly had a private workout with the Falcons on Thursday and is likely to visit as well. It is unclear whether Michigan’s Taylor Lewan, the other top offensive tackle, has a visit scheduled or already visited the Falcons. Lewan previously worked out for the Falcons, as did Matthews, Mack and UCLA's Anthony Barr.
ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. released his latest mock draft on Thursday and has Mack going to the Oakland Raiders with the fifth overall pick.
The 6-foot-3-inch, 251-pound Mack is touted for his explosive first step and outstanding instincts. He would be hard for the Falcons to pass up if he falls to No. 6, although adding another protector for quarterback Matt Ryan would appear to be more pressing than targeting a pass-rusher with the first-round pick.
The Falcons desperately need to improve their pass rush after finishing tied for 29th in the league last season with just 32 sacks. Mack is another one of those players capable of getting to the quarterback in any defensive alignment.
Mack is confident in his abilities, even coming from a lesser-known school such as Buffalo.
"The toughest transition for me will be getting to know grown men in a professional environment,’’ Mack said at this year’s NFL combine. "I feel like that’s always going to be difficult at first. ... It’s going to be a transition. But I feel like, football-wise, I’m ready to step in and make an impact anywhere I can.’’