TWENTYMAN: Lions host the versatile linebacker Khalil Mack

Posted Apr 22, 2014

The Detroit Lions are looking for a “flamethrower” to throw at opposing quarterbacks.

The Detroit Lions are looking for a “flamethrower” to throw at opposing quarterbacks.

New head coach Jim Caldwell is excited by what he’s seen in second-year defensive end Ziggy Ansah and the possibilities for him in Teryl Austin’s new defense.

Khalil MackLB Khalil Mack (Photo: AP Images)

Caldwell and the Lions are on the lookout for more players like Ansah, who they view as versatile, and they’re interested in adding a dynamic player who can rush the edges and do a number of different things for them.

“We’re trying to find maybe a little bit different flavor in that regard, trying to find maybe another guy that can do it,” Caldwell said of getting an edge-rushing linebacker at the NFL Annual Meetings last month. “He may be in our program right now, in our organization. We have to see how he fits within our scheme, but obviously, anybody can use a flamethrower, and sometimes you find one here or there.”

The Lions hosted maybe the best flamethrower in the 2014 NFL Draft in former Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack in Allen Park Tuesday.

Mack, 6-foot-3, 251 pounds, is considered one of the best prospects in this draft and could potentially go No. 1 overall to the Houston Texans.

“I tell them I like to play in the backfield,” Mack told when asked what NFL teams are telling him about the position he’ll play in the NFL.

“I feel my versatility can only add to my value on the team, whether I can play outside linebacker, whether I can play defensive end or outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. I feel it all works to my benefit.”

Mack, who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.55 seconds at his pro day, dominated college football last year to the tune of 100 tackles (19 for loss), 10.5 sacks and three interceptions. He was a second-team All-American selection.

He had his best game a year ago against Ohio State when he recorded nine tackles, 2.5 sacks and an interception return for a touchdown.

For his career, Mack finished with 327 tackles, 75 tackles for loss and 28.5 sacks. He set the NCAA record with 16 forced fumbles and tied the record for career tackles for loss.

The Lions are keeping a 4-3 scheme under Austin, so Mack would be a multipurpose Sam linebacker who also has the ability to move around and rush the quarterback. He’d be a wildcard and a playmaker.

Mack said “no doubt” it would be fun to play in a scheme like Detroit’s.

“Just talking to coaches you can’t help but get excited,” Mack said at the end of his visit. “Just being able to mentioned with and play with a guy like (Ndamukong) Suh and (Nick) Fairley and all those guys inside.

"Knowing all those guys they have around them in (Deandre) Levy. (Ziggy) Ansah is a new addition to the madness coming off the edge. Somebody has to get single blocked and that’s fun.”

Unfortunately, there’s little chance Mack will still be on the board when the Lions select No. 10.

Just like receiver Sammy Watkins and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who the team has shown interest in the pre-draft process, the Lions will likely have to move up to acquire his services.