Sex appeal, name recognition and star power make Sammy Watkins and Jadeveon Clowney two of the more exciting names the Detroit Lions could trade up to select when the NFL Draft begins in two weeks.
However, the team is also bringing in a third highly rated visitor, and one who actually could make a bigger overall impact than either Watkins or Clowney with the Lions. Khalil Mack, a linebacker from Buffalo, is the type of player who could quickly become an all-pro player for a decade despite his small school stature.
Mack, some have said, might make more sense in a 3-4 scheme, but is no less explosive of a play maker. He’s probably the best linebacker prospect in the draft, and the Lions could need a new outside linebacker, given they haven’t addressed that position high in some time.
Gold can always be mined at defensive end and wide receiver through the middle rounds, but it’s sometimes difficult to find a linebacker capable of making a massive impact on the game as the draft goes on. Other than finding DeAndre Levy in the third round in 2009, that’s certainly been the case for Detroit.
The Lions need someone capable of impacting the game from the linebacker spot, and Mack, the NCAA’s all-time leader in forced fumbles and a man tied at the top for the career lead in tackles for loss certainly fits that bill. Teryl Austin could decide he needs his version of Terrell Suggs, and Mack could be that exact type of player in Detroit’s system.
As far as pure need and talent match go, Mack is probably the best pure fit of the three players Detroit could trade up for. Regardless of their plans, the Lions continue to do their due diligence on all the prospects they like, regardless of where many expect them to be drafted.
Detroit might not even get a shot at Mack in the end, but if he begins to fall a touch and the team quickly moves up into the top five, it’s not a slam dunk they ‘ll be angling for Watkins or Clowney, two of the more popular names they’ve been linked to publicly in recent weeks.
The team hasn’t taken a linebacker in the first round since Ernie Sims, and other than Chris Claiborne and Reggie Brown, it’s a position that hasn’t seen much play early over the last decade for the franchise.
With an explosive talent like Mack sitting on the board, it’s possible the team would finally like to change that fact.