Raiders’ Khalil Mack More Than Just a Rookie of the Year Talent

In any other year or on a better team, Oakland Raiders outside linebacker Khalil Mack would be the consensus Defensive Rookie of the Year. He may still win it, but he’s in a tight race with St. Louis Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

One thing is for sure, Mack doesn’t need to win the award to validate that he’s more than just a Rookie of the Year talent—especially for the Raiders. Mack is a special player and will be for years to come.

Mack’s play has even taken some of the sting out of Oakland’s dismal year. Mack is a foundation player and the cornerstone by which the Raiders hope to set all the other stones on their defense.

If you watch Mack and talk about him long enough, you’ll run out of ways to describe just how good he is. Mack can already be favorably compared to the best players in the game—not just rookies.

“Every week, one of the teams I watch early on is the Raider defense. And the reason I want to watch is Khalil Mack,” said ESPN analyst Merril Hoge in mid-December. “He’s not just one of the best rookies to come out, he’s the best linebacker in the National Football League, and he is the best against the run.”

As much as ESPN analysts like Hoge might be prone to hyperbole, this particular statement is actually supportable with stats and video. Hoge is actually echoing the sentiment of just about everyone who has seen Mack play more than a single game.

According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Mack grades out second to only J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans among all defenders. That means he grades out higher than players like Justin Houston and Von Miller. Mack might not quite be the sack artist they are, but he’s more dominant in the run game.

Mack is currently second in the league with 11.5 stuffs, according to STATS, INC.—defined as tackles at ...

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