Analyzing Kiper 3.0: Texans

It was their biggest game of the season and he was the best player on the field.

When Buffalo played Ohio State in the kind of game I usually prefer to ignore, one player made that impossible: Buffalo outside linebacker Khalil Mack.

The Buckeyes won the game 40-20, but Mack was almost entirely responsible for keeping the game close. After Ohio State jumped to a 23-0 lead, Buffalo fought back, cutting their deficit to just 10 points, with the help of an interception Mack caught and returned 45 yards for a touchdown. He also notched seven solo tackles and 2.5 sacks. He might have had another sack, on which he also forced a fumble, but was called for a penalty on the play.

In the months since, Mack has risen through draft boards, including ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper's.

In Kiper's Mock Draft 3.0,Insider the draft guru has the Houston Texans taking Mack first overall. If it happened, it would make two season in a row that the first overall pick was a small-school product.

This version has the quarterbacks waiting -- Blake Bortles is the first at the fourth pick with Johnny Manziel going even later.

The quarterback versus pass-rusher discussion was resolved in a defensive direction the last time the Texans had the first overall pick in the draft. That was 2006 when they selected Mario Williams instead of local favorite Texas quarterback Vince Young or Southern California's dynamic running back Reggie Bush. Don't read too much into that -- or the fact that the franchise's first No. 1 overall pick was a quarterback who floundered (David Carr). The only decision-maker who remains from those years is team owner Bob McNair.

What's interesting here, though, is that Kiper didn't go with the pass-rusher everyone assumes is the top choice. In this version of his mock draft, even Jadeveon Clowney had to wait.