INDIANAPOLIS — When linebacker Khalil Mack arrived at Buffalo, he was assigned the No. 46.
It was incidentally the same as number as his rating — on a scale of 40 to 99 — by EA Sports’ NCAA video game, and the reason he never chose to switch to more traditional linebacker digits in the 50s.
"That was a slap in the face," he said.
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Five years later, even as Mack prepares to be the Mid-American Conference’s latest high-end draft pick — Central Michigan tackle Eric Fisher was picked first overall by the Chiefs last year — he continues to play with the same underdog edge.
Recall his tour de force showing against Ohio State in last year’s season opener? Mack said the Buckeyes made the mistake of too often using only a single blocker to slow him.
"It was sort of a little bit of disrespect there from a schematic approach," Mack said Saturday at the NFL scouting combine. "But at the same time. I wanted to make them pay for it."
He did. Mack had nine tackles — including 2½ sacks — and returned an interception for a touchdown in the Buckeyes’ win, and only continued to make opponents pay. The 6-foot-3, 248-pound Mack finished his career with an NCAA-record 16 forced fumbles and tied for first all-time with 75 tackles for a loss.
NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock calls Mack the best prospect in the draft.
GALLON-SIZED: Quarterback Johnny Manziel said he plays like he’s 10 feet tall.
Former Michigan receiver Jeremy Gallon is just fine playing like he’s 5-7. Unless you’re comparing him to pint-sized Panthers star Steve Smith, the shortest player at the combine is sick of hearing about his size.
"It gets tiring, but I can’t change what people think or what they say about me," said Gallon, who said he patterns his game after the 5-9 Smith, a five-time all-pro receiver. "It’s an obstacle that I’ve been dealing with since I’ve been playing football, but I haven’t considered it an issue."
Gallon tries to sell his stature as a strength, believing his speed and lithe frame make him the ideal slot receiver. That’s where he projects in the NFL after playing mostly on the outside at UM, where he had 89 catches for a school-record 1,373 yards.
LENDING A HAND: Former OSU star Carlos Hyde’s vision isn’t limited to the field. He also sees that the Browns’ running game needs a lot of help — and knows he’s just the guy to give it to them.
"I think I can help the Browns," said Hyde, who ran for 1,521 yards and 15 TDs despite being suspended the first three games last season. "Being at Ohio State, you see their games all the time. There were some games they struggled real bad running the ball. In the league you have to run the ball, and I feel like I can definitely help them out.”
After picking fourth overall, the Browns hold the No. 26 and 35 selections.
Hyde is projected as a high second-round pick.
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