Whitney Mercilus, DL
- Height: 6-foot-3
- Weight: 265 pounds
- School: Illinois
After failing to make a name for himself during his first two seasons at Illinois, Mercilus broke out in a big way during his 2011 junior campaign - his first as a starter - and opted to pass up his final year of eligibility. The Ohio native won the Ted Hendricks Award - given to college football's best defensive end - after coming up with a Division-I leading 16.0 sacks, tying former star Simeon Rice's school record. He also forced nine fumbles, one shy of the all-time NCAA mark, and recorded 22 1/2 tackles for loss. Mercilus is a bit undersized, but he more than makes up for it with great quickness. He showed off that impressive speed at the NFL combine, where he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.68 seconds to finish fourth at his position. Mercilus also may have improved his stock with a solid effort in the broad jump - his distance of 118.0 inches was tied for eighth-best among defensive linemen. Currently projected as a late first-round pick, Mercilus doesn't come with many - if any - major red flags. While his final season with the Illini didn't leave much to be desired, some view Mercilus' lack of starting experience as a concern and may prefer to go with more of a "sure thing" early in the draft. He's a tremendous pass rusher but struggled at times against the run due to his smaller-than-average frame. Mercilus has drawn comparisons to New York Giants Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, and while it may take some time for him to live up to such lofty expectations, he certainly has the skill set to be a force in the pros.
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