After a dazzling performance at the scouting combine in February -- Mack clocked 4.65 seconds in the 40-yard dash, and his vertical-leap and broad-jump marks put him in the top 10 among linebackers in the past decade -- some analysts thought the Houston Texans might grab him with the first pick in the draft.
To the Raiders, Mack brings something Allen has lacked since he was defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos three years ago: an elite pass rusher. Outside linebacker Von Miller has terrorized the AFC West over the past three seasons.
"Absolutely, I saw a lot of similarities between him and Von Miller," Allen said. "And the thing that really was attractive about Khalil Mack was the fact that he understands how to rush the passer. And he understands how to rush the passer with power. . . . I've made that statement several times about everything in the National Football League is about affecting the passer."
Miller had 11? sacks as a Denver rookie in 2011. No Raiders rookie has ever recorded that many. Miller had 18? sacks in 2012. No Raider has ever logged more than 16 in a season.
If Mack can come close to that production, he could team with veteran newcomers Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley and young holdover Sio Moore to reinvent the Oakland pass rush, which ranked 18th in the NFL last year with 38 sacks.
"The thing with Khalil is the one thing that he can do is rush the passer," McKenzie said. "He plays very well on the line of scrimmage. And . . . what I look for in the linebacker is the physicality. He can play strong and he can play with good extension, he uses his hands, and the fact that he's big and he can run, that just added to his value. He's a football player, and I think he's the total package."
"I think he's a little bit better than Reggie," Allen added, drawing some laughs.
McKenzie was a linebacker for the Los Angeles Raiders from 1985-88, but he survived on smarts and sure tackling more than exceptional speed or explosiveness.
If Mack is considered an elite athlete, it wasn't always the case. A two-star recruit coming out of Westwood High School in Fort Pierce, Fla., he was wooed by just two small colleges, Liberty and Buffalo. He wound up wearing jersey No. 46 at Buffalo, a reminder of the overall rating he received -- on a scale of 100 -- on the first NCAA Football video game he appeared in by EA Sports.
Mack redshirted a year as a scout-team linebacker, but emerged as a starter at strongside linebacker as a freshman, gained All-MAC first-team recognition as a sophomore and was All-American as a junior and senior.
He will now try to follow in the path of small-school linebackers like DeMarcus Ware (Troy) and London Fletcher (John Carroll) who made it big in the NFL.
Asked whether he'd rather hit a running back or hit a quarterback on a conference call with Bay Area reporters, Mack replied: "Does the quarterback have the ball? I want to go get the ball out of his hands if he's not holding it tight. I'm going to be smart about the situation, but I wouldn't mind blowing both of them up."