Chicago Bears edge rusher Khalil Mack career trajectory

Khalil Mack has been in the NFL for six seasons and two with the Chicago Bears. Who does he measure up to in comparison?

We all know that Khalil Mack is on track to being a legendary NFL player. Now that he has played six NFL seasons, we can start to look back and see how he compares to some of those greats at this point in their careers. What would he need to do to stay on pace with these players over their ascending careers, and how has his run with the Chicago Bears ranked amongst the NFL’s best?

When looking at NFL edge rushers who have played six NFL seasons, he ranks 15th All-Time in career sacks. When sorting by Approximate value only Von Miller, Derrick Thomas, and Lawrence Taylor have been more valuable.

Overall, there are five players who are still active who had similar starts to their careers as Mack. Justin Houston, Chandler Jones, Ryan Kerrigan, Clay Matthews, and Von Miller are all on the list of top 20 all-time pass rushers through six years.

                          Tack Tack   Tack     Tack Fumb Def
Rk           Player AV  G Solo  Ast QBHits TFL   Sk   FF Int
1    Justin Houston 52 75  245   41     86  72 60.0    9   3
2    Chandler Jones 56 87  215  104    118  81 64.0   16   1
3     Ryan Kerrigan 48 96  241   82     91  82 58.5   19   2
4       Khalil Mack 77 94  308   90    116  86 61.5   20   2
5     Clay Matthews 66 85  231   75    128  83 61.0   12   5
6        Von Miller 81 88  267   72    147  94 73.5   20   1

Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/23/2020.

Von Miller really stands out and is the only rusher who can be argued as better than Mack. Still, that is an elite company. So, when projecting to a 2021 season, what type of seventh season did these players have? What would Mack need to do to keep pace?

Below you can see the seventh season stats for those five rushers.

 

                          Tack Tack   Tack     Tack Fumb Def
Rk           Player AV  G Solo  Ast QBHits TFL   Sk   FF Int
1    Justin Houston  8 15   46   13     20  16  9.5    0   0
2    Chandler Jones  8 16   38   11     18  13 13.0    3   0
3     Ryan Kerrigan 11 16   34   12     17  15 13.0    3   1
4     Clay Matthews 12 16   49   17     19  14  6.5    0   1
5        Von Miller 12 16   51    6     23  17 10.0    2   0

Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/23/2020.

Matthews was asked to play a completely different role in his seventh season. However, three of the other four clear the 10 sack threshold, and Houston hit 9.5. Mack only had 8.5 sacks last year but should be in line to be right back in the 10-13 sack range, with 17-23 quarterback hits.

Khalil Mack with the Chicago Bears

Of course, the Bears have only been able to benefit from the last two seasons of that run. Below you can see how Mack ranks over the past two seasons compared to his peers. He is eighth in sacks, fifth in tackles, ninth in hits, and second in Approximate Value.

Query Results Table
TackTackTackTackMisc
RkPlayerSk
CombTFLQBHitsAV
1Chandler Jones32.0102244420
2Danielle Hunter29.0142364129
3T.J. Watt 27.5123265725
4Myles Garrett 23.573234719
5Von Miller22.594244625
6Shaquil Barrett22.586254414
7Za’Darius Smith22.0100276218
8Khalil Mack21.094183228
9Frank Clark 21.078224119
10Justin Houston20.081213013

Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/22/2020

He is up there with the best pass rushers in the NFL but has not set himself apart as the best edge rusher in the NFL hands down. His great, not elite 2019 campaign left him a few sacks behind names like Watt, Hunter, and Jones over that span.

Age 27-28

Mack has played six NFL seasons but also is age 28. Looking through NFL history, below is a list of players who had the most comparable age 27 and age 28 seasons to Mack. These are the types of players the Bears have gotten in production.

 

                           Tack Tack   Tack     Tack Fumb Fumb Def
Rk            Player AV  G Solo  Ast QBHits TFL   Sk   FF   FR Int
1     Elvis Dumervil 21 30   63   33     39  16 20.5    6    1   0
2    Everson Griffen 19 31   75   27     54  28 22.5    2    0   0
3      Ryan Kerrigan 17 32   59   16     37  30 20.5    4    0   0
4         Chris Long 16 32   58   15     31  28 20.0    1    2   0
5        Khalil Mack 28 30   77   17     32  18 21.0   11    3   1
6      Robert Mathis 14 29   60   24     29  16 21.0   10    3   0

Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/23/2020.

We once again see Ryan Kerrigan, who has had an underrated NFL career. Another interesting name is Robert Mathis, who just so happened to play in a Chuck Pagano defense later into his career. That seemed to help him, as Mathis played through age 35, and was putting up elite numbers at age 33.

Below, we look at just the age 29 season of each of the players below. Long got hurt at age 29 but did bounce back to have more strong seasons as a rotational pass rusher.

                           Tack Tack   Tack     Tack Fumb Def
Rk            Player AV  G Solo  Ast QBHits TFL   Sk   FF Int
1     Elvis Dumervil  3 15   18   13     15   8  9.5    2   0
2    Everson Griffen 12 16   36   12     22   9  8.0    2   0
3      Ryan Kerrigan 11 16   34   12     17  15 13.0    3   1
4         Chris Long  3  6    5    0      1   3  1.0    0   0
5      Robert Mathis  9 16   44   16     19  10 11.0    1   0

Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/23/2020.

Beyond Long, we once again see that ten sacks are still an expectation for Mack, as most of his peers have hit that point during their age 29 seasons.

Another thing to note is that Dumervil played until he was 33, the same age as Long. Griffen is 32 and is currently a free agent. Kerrigan is just 31, and Mathis played through age 35, but it does appear that the age 32-33 season could be when the wheels start to slow down for Khalil Mack. Fortunately for the Bears that is about four years away.