2015 NFL DRAFT
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Whitney Mercilus

| | College: Illinois
 
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Overview

Mercilus' startling 2011 season sent scouts scrambling to learn more about him, and the news was better than expected. After two mediocre seasons at Illinois, Mercilus used cat-like moves to become an All-American and win the Ted Hendricks Award as the best defensive end in the country. He led the nation with 16 sacks, nine forced fumbles and had 22.5 tackles for a loss. Of all his statistics, forced fumbles is the one that many scouts admire most.

"I just have a knack for it," he said. "Throughout the game I was able to watch the quarterback's movements and just see him open up and then I just go in there and just knock it away."

Scouts gush a list of positives traits, including quickness, agility, strength, instincts, condition, attitude … and he is just beginning to mature and could be a great outside linebacker. Reaching for comparisons, they mention names like Simeon Rice, Dwight Freeney, Richard Dent, and even the great Reggie White.

The U.S.-born son of parents who emigrated from Haiti in the 1980s, Mercilus played mostly soccer until high school. His 2011 season had an auspicious beginning when he lost the tip of his left index finger last spring in a weight-room accident. Teammates were shocked when he light-heartedly dismissed the injury as only a bother when he played the keyboard or tried to pick up coins.

Analysis

Pass rush: Very active and plays with top effort on every snap. Moves all around the defensive line, lining up off the edge and inside at defensive tackle. Has the natural speed to win the edge and closes in a flash. Attacks gaps and is a pesky rusher, finding ways to squirm into the backfield. Hard player to block cleanly. Plays with a fighting mentality and has the violent hand usage to battle through the trash and make the play. Hustle player with a nonstop motor. Tends to play high and doesn't worry much about technique or fundamentals. Still developing his snap anticipation and will jump offside at times.

Run defense: Lacks an obvious power element to his game and struggles to shed blocks on run plays. Doesn't consistently set the edge and will over run his responsibilities. Still developing his recognition skills and instincts. Struggles to consistently locate the ball and will get caught out of position at times.

Explosion: Fires off the snap with a first step burst that really stands out. A bit tight in the hips and straight-linish in his movements. Lacks great change-of-direction ability to explode laterally or smoothly redirect his momentum.

Strength: Has adequate build with very good length and overall measureables. Plays tough with the hand strength to rip the ball out and force fumbles. Lacks an ideal frame for the position and doesn't have the prototypical muscle definition. Lacks great bulk and doesn't have a lot of room to get much bigger.

Tackling: Physical in the trenches and doesn't try to avoid contact. Has long arms to wrap and wrestle ballcarriers to the ground. Takes pride in his ability to finish and complete tackles.

Intangibles: Has only one year of starting production under his belt, causing questions about being a "one year wonder" and was a relative unknown entering the 2011 season. Had above average production in 2011, leading the nation in sacks (16.0) and forced fumbles (9) and finishing second in tackles for loss (22.5) -- consistent production week-in and week-out as a junior in 2011. Decided to leave early to help his family financially (both his parents are immigrants from Haiti).

--Dane Brugler

2011 Season

Leads the nation and the Big Ten in sacks (13.5) and sacks per game (1.23), and leads the nation with eight forced fumbles … Has tied the Big Ten record and broken the Illinois mark with eight forced fumbles this season … Is sixth nationally in TFLs per game (1.75) … Had a sack and a forced fumble against Wiscosin on Nov. 19 … Posted three tackles, one forced fumble, one TFL, one QBH, and one sack against Michigan to move into sole possession of third place on the Illini single-season list for sacks … Recorded six tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks and one forced fumble against Penn State, moving into a tie for third on Illinois' single-season sacks list … Had five tackles and 2 TFLs against Purdue … Against Ohio State, had a career-high nine tackles and recorded 1.5 sacks and reached double digits on the year … Had five solo tackles, 4.0 TFLs, 3.0 sacks and two forced fumbles in victory over Indiana … Had six tackles along with 1.5 sacks and a fumble recovery in win over Northwestern … Recorded four tackles, a career-high three QB hurries and one sack against Western Michigan … Had five tackles, 2.0 sacks, one forced fumble, one PBU and one QB hurry in win over Arizona State … Had three solo tackles, 2.0 TFLs and a forced fumble against Arkansas State.

2010 Season

Played in all 13 games, making two starts … Had 16 tackles, 3.0 TFLs, one sack, two hurries, two forced fumbles and one PBU in 2010 … Recorded two tackles, one TFL and forced a fumble in Texas Bowl win over Baylor … Had a tackle and a QB hurry against NIU … Made first career start against SIU, tallying his first solo QB sack, 2 TFLs, a forced fumble, a QB hurry and a PBU.

2009 Season

Played in 11 games, recording eight tackles, 3.5 TFLs and one sack on the season … Had a career-best 1.5 TFLs against Northwestern … Recorded a half-sack in win over Minnesota … Posted a tackle, and first career quarterback sack, in win over Michigan … Had a tackle, including his first career TFL, at Purdue.

2008 Season

Redshirted the 2008 season … Enrolled at Illinois in January 2008.

High School

Rated as the No. 36 defensive end by ESPN.com … Ranked as the No. 28 weakside defensive end by Rivals.com … Listed as the 22nd-best recruit in the state of Ohio by Rivals.com … Posted 36 solo tackles, six for loss, two sacks and four fumble recoveries, including one for a 36-yard touchdown, in 2007 … Also caught 24 passes for 417 yards and eight touchdowns … Earned Northeast Ohio Inland All-Star team selection … Named to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer Defensive All-Star team … Earned district All-Star honors … PrepStar All-Region … Graduated high school with over a 3.0 GPA … High school coach was Bob Sax.

Personal

Son of Yvrose and Wilner Mercilus … Born on July 21, 1990 … Parents are originally from Haiti … Majoring in community health … Chose Illinois over Cincinnati, Kansas, Michigan State and Purdue.

 
 
Latest News
04/30/2012 - A closer look at the Texans' picks: Round 1/26 - Whitney Mercilus, OLB, 6-4, 261, Illinois...He'll move to outside linebacker in the 3-4 and learn behind starters Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed. All three should play in passing situations. - The Sports Xchange

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