All I really know about Khalil Mack is what the combine numbers say. Combine numbers are interesting and tell a lot about potential, but in reality, it is how fast things happen between the ears that matter most. Don’t think I advocate taking a player based on his measurable, it is production potential that matters.
Before we start, let’s understand what the Jaguars might be looking at when they see Khalil Mack. It is no secret the Jaguars would like to have a superb LEO. A LEO is a “L” Linebacker, “E” on the End and on the “O” Open side. The open side is the one where there is no Tight End. If Marcedes Lewis is helping Austin Pasztor on the right side of the line, the opponent LEO would be on the side Luke Joekel is on.
Now the purpose of a LEO is to stop the run but mostly get to the quarterback in passing situations. As an outside linebacker, a LEO will also be called on to provide some pass coverage. The quarterback may want a check-down option that a LEO could take away. So a LEO is a quick and powerful player, one of those rare athletes that can bring the stopping power, but change direction quickly in coverage. He plays fast and he plays with explosiveness.
The combine is designed to measure both the explosiveness and the football speed. Explosiveness is measured in the vertical jump, the broad jump and the bench press repetitions. When you add these measures together, there is an unofficial “explosion” factor. Pat Kirwin wrote in NFL.com that a total over 70 is considered elite. As I will show you later, Khalil Mack is a 73.5, Jadaveon Clowney is a 69.
In the combine, there are also different measures of fast. There is straight line speed and the 40 yard dash shows that and there is change of direction quickness which the 20 yard shuttle shows. In the 2005 article for NFL.com, Pat Kirwin explained this very well:
"“My general rule of thumb for comparing speed (the 40-yard dash time) to quickness and change of direction (the 20-yard short-shuttle test) was to take the 40 time and subtract the short-shuttle time and expect a 0.5 difference. For example, a player with a 5.0 40 time needs to run a 4.5 short shuttle to get the 0.5 differential. Simply stated, his speed and his quickness relate to each other. A man who runs a 4.4 40 and a 4.4 short shuttle is really a guy with straight-line speed who may not play very fast because of a lack of quickness. He is often referred to as a guy with “track speed.” Conversely, an athlete who runs an average time of 4.7 in the 40 but can hit the short shuttle in 3.9 — significantly better than the 0.5 differential — can overcome his average speed with great quickness and change of direction.The short shuttle can be a much better indication of your ability to play football fast.”"
Pat doesn’t say a fast shuttle and a fast 40 is bad. He says an average 40 time is not that bad when a good shuttle time is demonstrated. Conversely, a great 40 time but not a great shuttle is a warning flag that the speed may not translate to football speed.
Among linebackers, the 40 yard dash may be impressive, but the short shuttle may be the score that shows middle of the field coverage skills, demonstrating the ability to read and react to changes of direction. For linebackers and defensive linemen in the 2014 NFL Combine, Khalil Mack had the 5th best time in the short shuttle.
So now that we understand what we are looking for, let’s evaluate Khalil Mack’s numbers by comparing him to Jadaveon Clowney as a defensive end and Dwayne Gratz as a cover man.Jadeveon ClowneyKhalil MackDwayne GratzDifference with ClowneyDifference with Gratz
Height6’ 5”6’ 2”5’ 11”-3”+ 3”Weight265250 lbs200 lbs-15 lbs+ 50 lbsArm length3533”32”-2”+ 1”
Speed and Quickness
40 yard dash4.53 seconds4.65 secs4.47 secs-.12 secs– .18 secs3 cone drill7.27 seconds7.08 secs6.70 secs+.19 secs– .38 secsShuttleDid not do4.18 secs4.15 secsNA– .03 secs
Vertical leap37.5”40”38”+2.5”+ 2”Broad jump10’ 4”10’ 8”10’ 5”+4 “+ 3 “Bench21x23x22x+2+ 1
In terms of explosiveness (vertical jump, broad jump, bench press), you can see the power in both Khalil Mack (73.6) and Dwayne Gratz (70.5). Jadaveon Clowney is very close (68.75). Khalil Mack brings a lot of punch with his contact, for a linebacker to generate a 40” vertical leap at 250 pounds shows incredible leg strength. I still marvel at Gratz, a cornerback, delivering an explosiveness rating of 70.5.
In terms of the short shuttle, Khalil Mack can practically equal the change of direction speed of Dwayne Gratz, a corner back! Khalil Mack plays fast. Phil Savage, a former NFL GM, sent out a tweet questioning Jadaveon Clowney’s decision to not run the short shuttle. He wanted to see the lateral quickness time. We know this about Jadaveon, his 40 yard dash was the fastest of all defensive ends, but can he change direction or is this a straight ahead speed? We don’t know.
When you compare Jadaveon Clowney to Khalil Mack, the question is whether you want a defensive end or a LEO outside linebacker. Jadaveon Clowney is a bigger man with a good bit of speed. Khalil Mack is a slightly smaller man with a high concentration of both power and quickness.
I think in Gus Bradley’s mind, he really wants that LEO. The LEO is a rare athlete combining both power and quickness.
Is Khalil Mack a “Von Miller” type LEO candidate? I have read a lot of opinions of guys I respect and they are mixed. Some, like Mike Mayock, say he is and deserves the number one spot. Both ESPN guys, Kiper and McShay say he is a top three candidate (meaning us, the Jaguars). Others say he struggles in traffic and needs to improve his coverage skills and is a second round candidate. I don’t know, but I bet Dave Caldwell knows for sure what he thinks.
If Khalil Mack is selected by the Jaguars, we can bet they think he is an elite LEO and we will be better off. We will soon know.
– Terry O’Brien