Whitney Mercilus' NFL draft diary
Top defensive end from Illinois plans to do 'everything' at combine
On the NFL
5:02 p.m. CST, February 18, 2012
Illinois' Whitney Mercilus is one of the highest-rated defensive end prospects in this year's NFL draft. The first-team All-American and first-team Big Ten performer will chronicle his experience leading up to the April draft for the Tribune.
I have been preparing for the combine for almost two months, and I am ready to fly down to Indianapolis on Thursday.
I arrived in Phoenix to train at Athletes' Performance the first week in January, and have lived in an apartment here since. There are a lot of other draft prospects here, including Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, Alabama defensive end Courtney Upshaw, Alabama running back Trent Richardson and Clemson tight end Dwayne Allen.
I want to show the NFL I am fluid with my movements, and that I have great hips. I heard I was getting knocked on that. I've been doing everything I can here so I'll be ready to show them I can even be an outside linebacker in a 3-4, as well a 4-3 right end. If they want me to do outside linebacker drills at the combine, I will.
I plan on doing everything there. I want to prove to everybody I am that guy to pick up.
I have been working on refining my running style to lower my 40-yard dash time. We're also practicing pro agility drills, the broad jump and vertical jump, and I'm working on my bench press.
I'm shooting for high numbers. In the 40, I want to hit a 4.6, maybe a high 4.5. I'm pretty confident I can achieve that. I've been working my butt off.
In the bench press, I'd like to hit 30 repetitions at 225 pounds, but if I get into the high 20s I'll be fine.
I'm trying to get my weight up to 260 pounds. I'm at 256 now. I started last season at 265, but my weight dropped to 250 as the season went on. I have a high metabolism so I burn a lot of calories. But I can play at 260, no doubt.
I also have been preparing for the interview process with help from my agent Sean Howard. I'm learning how to communicate effectively with coaches during the combine. They have me in media training so I can learn to create a brand and sell myself as a football player.
I also have taken some practice Wonderlic tests so I will be prepared for what's coming.
I know I can be one of the top defensive ends in the draft and I look forward to the chance to show it in Indianapolis.
NFL draft: Illinois' Whitney Mercilus chronicles his experience leading up to the NFL draft - chicagotribune.com
He can only help himself as far as the Combine is concerned. He's been steadily slipping back in the pack and no longer rates a 1st round pick. To me he's one of the bigger gambles in the first two rounds of the draft. He needs to show some people what he can do there and at his pro day.
Originally Posted by short faced bear
Agreed he is a HUGE risk in the 1st round.
Originally Posted by soulman
He could be Aldon Smith or he could be Vernon Gholston.
This DE group has as many question marks as the WR group.
I think each group he two legit top 20 picks. Blackmon in the top ten and Wright between 10-20. After that the question marks appear. Same with DE. Coples top ten and Ingram 10-20 and after that sure things are moe questionable.
Originally Posted by WindyCity
Since these are all pre-Combine ratings we'll see how it shakes out afterwards and then there are still pro days at their colleges left that may sift them again. It seems to me top ten guys rarely fall out of the top ten but as you go farther down the line evaluations get tougher and little things may be enough to boost a guy up or knock him back. The other factor tends to be which teams draft for a specific needs as opposed to those who won't reach but will take the BPA approach as long as it's a guy they can upgrade with. That's why Jonathan Martin doesn't rank that high but NFP as him going to Buffalo around the 11th pick.
Here's a brief review of Mercilus and what he must focus on at the Combine in order to improve his draft status.
DE Whitney Mercilus: Illinois (6-4, 265)
Physically he looks the part and has the natural talent to simply man handle college lineman. However, he's a raw kid who is stiff in the hips and doesn't have a great feel for the game when asked to find the football. He's got some upside, but his tightness and overall lack of natural feel for the game are two very big concerns of mine. Nevertheless, he’s got the ability to “wow” during workouts and could be one of the big winners to come out of Indy and set his draft stock soaring.
The two biggest issues I see with Mercilus are his one year spurt as a college player. Sometimes it just takes that long to "get it" but sometimes it also means you're a "flash in the pan prospect" who can't put together in the pros. We already had Vernon Gholston is camp last year and we don't need another this year.
The second thing that concerns me isn't his stiff hips it's his seeming lack of knowledge about the game. Is he a real football player or just a "workout warrior" who can dominate at a college level but not in the pros. Another "look like Tarzan plays like Jane" type resembling another guy just like him we once drafted by the name of John Theirry.
I wan't to know if this kid actually knows how it play football or is he simply a one trick wonder at the college level.
Even Coples has major question marks and he is considered a top 10 pick, Mike Mayock is particularly critical of him.
Originally Posted by soulman
Mayock on North Carolina DE Quinton Coples: I’m not a fan. I’d be scared to death because he did not play well or hard as a senior.
I think the Bears put themselves in a bad spot at 19 because the truly top 20 DE/WR talent could be gone by the time we are on the clock.
I hope some of these guys answer the questions about themselves at the combine.
The WRs and DEs in the first round are all risky propositions. I'm not saying the OTs aren't, but I will say that I have read more glowing remarks from draft experts on those players than I have ones at the other two positions.
Anyone who drafts Coples is doing is on his ability to become a dominant player and by the time the Combine is over he may either cement his spot of he may fall back into the teens again. It was his play at the Senior Bowl that boosted him up and despite that McShay rates Ingram as the better pass rusher of the two.
Originally Posted by WindyCity
If the guys they like at those spots are gone then maybe it pushes someone else down just like what happended with Carimi last year. Teams passed on him and we got a great pick who was as much as 8-10 spots ahead of us. These boards will change after the Combine and again after pro days and again just before the draft so this is just fodder for conversation right now.
This year we have FA before the draft and what happens there will change the whole complexion of the first couple of rounds. If the Bears sign two vet WR's in FA they're not gonna spend a 1st round pick on another and the same would hold true if we picked up a top pass rusher. Our pick wouldn't be a DE.
Just to give you guys something to think about, Mercilus' numbers this last season have been pretty impressive. So much so that he has tied Simeon Rice's Illini sack record at 16 and fell just 1/2 tackle short of tying Simeon's TFL record at 22.5 (Simeon's was 23). Now, while I know this isn't a truly fair comparison (but what scouting logic is perfect?) the Big man (Coples) has only 7.5 sacks and 15 TFL; Ingram had only 10/15; Perry was 9.5/13; Branch was 10.5/17. Mercilus has also been credited with 8 forced fumbles, which puts him near the top nationally.
(Note, in the interest of full disclosure, the stats above came from the Illini website. I have seen others that report different stats, including the link below. I have no idea who is right, but they are impressive numbers none the less.)
I also agree that it is worrisome that he has had only one dominant season, especially in the comparison with Simeon Rice who had a dominant career at Illinois all 4 years, but I'm not comparing him to Rice, I'm only comparing him to the guys in THIS draft. Also, Mercilus' best games came against pretty good competition. He had a career day against Ohio State, and added to the totals above with great games against Wisconsin, Michigan, Penn State and Arizona State. I actually attended the Arizona State game, and he was wrecking their backfield constantly. Hell, I was excited to see how Burfict played in that game, but Mercilus was the guy that balled the entire game up. It's also worth noting that while I do not know what the rest of the D-Line looks like with Coples, Ingram, Perry, Branch, etc., I can say that Mercilus had little help from the rest of the crew, allowing the opposition to focus on him, and they still had problems.
With all that said, let me be clear that I am STILL not sold on him at 19 as his previous years does give me cause for concern, but if they are going to take a DE and move down a few picks in the first, then I would be more than happy with this selection.
Illini DE Whitney Mercilus: 2011 National Defensive End of the Year! | Chicago Sports Guru
Right now he stands a better chance of going up than down. After Coples, Ingram, Upshaw and Perry he's ranked with that next group and easily the best pass rusher among them. I think unless he bites the big one at the Combine he'll go end of first very early second. Somewhere in a ten to twelve pick range from #25 - #37. If a team like NY has the guys they need but Osi has suspect knees and wants more $$$ Mercilus is the kind of guy they'd pick and develop. JMO.