Filed for print . . .
Reggie McKenzie said he fielded some phone calls Thursday night from teams interested in trading for the Raiders’ first pick at No. 5 in the NFL draft.
Then Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack became available.
“Once Khalil fell to us, we had a couple of calls,’’ McKenzie said. “At that point, I wasn’t taking ‘em.’’
Mack was only the third linebacker ever taken in the first round by the Raiders, following Rolando McClain (No. 8 in 2010) and Rob Fredrickson (No. 22 in 1994).
But it was clear listening to coach Dennis Allen that while Mack is listed as a linebacker, his primary responsibility will be rushing the passer.
At 6-foot-3, 251 pounds, Allen compared Mack to Von Miller, who was the second overall selection out of Texas A&M when he was defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos in 2011.
Miller was the NFL defensive rookie of the year with 11.5 sacks, had 18.5 sacks in his second season and has 35 sacks in 40 NFL games.
“The thing that was really attractive about Khalil Mack is he understands how to rush the passer, and he understands how to rush the passer with power,’’ Allen said. “I see a lot of similarities between he and Von Miller.’
Mack has also been compared with Green Bay outside linebacker Clay Matthews, who was drafted by the Packers when McKenzie was a personnel executive.
At Buffalo of the Mid-America conference, Mack started 48 games with 28.5 sacks, 75 tackles for losses and an NCAA career record of 16 forced fumbles. It helped that Mack was dominant against Ohio State in the season opener in 2013 with 2.5 sacks, nine tackles and a 45-yard interception return for a touchdown.
“It had to do very well for my stock . . . just knowing the stage it was on, knowing it was the first game of the year and they were ranked so high, it benefited me a lot,’’ Mack said.
Jadaveon Clowney, the No. 1 overall pick by Houston out of South Carolina, was generally considered the top defensive player available, but Mack had his supporters _ NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock among them. Mack said at the NFL scouting combine he indeed considered himself No. 1.
Still does, as a matter of fact.
“I think that I am, but even then I’m at the point now where I’m tired of talking and I want to go out and start proving a little bit if this tuff everybody’s been talking about. I can’t wait. I cannot wait.’’
Linebacker was the only position group where the Raiders returned all three starters _ Sio Moore on the strong side, Nick Roach in the middle and Kevin Burnett on the weak side.
Allen wasn’t getting into specifics as to how Mack would be used, but he called him a “three-down player’’ and made it clear much would be expected of the rookie.
“I’m not going to get into exactly where he’s going to play,’’ Allen said. “I’ll tell you this _ he’s going to obviously have a big role in what we’re going to do and he’ll be a guy that we’re going to use to send after the quarterback in a variety of different ways.’’
Mack said Allen spoke of his role in general terms.
“We discussed having my hand down, discussed playing a little outside linebacker,’’ Mack said. “I’m ready, man. I’m ready to go play football.’’
Coming out of Westwood High in in Ft. Pierce, Fla., Mack wasn’t heavily recruited. It’s a slight he said he carries to this day for motivation.
When the Buffalo Bills traded for Cleveland’s pick at No. 4, it occurred to Mack he may not have to change zip codes.
When asked by a reporter if he was afraid he would have to spend his whole life in Buffalo, Mack laughed heartily.
“I was like, `Yo, I’ve got a lease right now up in Buffalo. I might be keeping it,’ ‘’ Mack said. “That’s crazy.’’