Has the strength to anchor and hold his ground vs. the run
Always looking to force fumbles
Quick get off
Shedding blocks when pass rushing
Ability to bull rush heavy tackles and guards
Lacks complete body of work in college
Quality of tackles he faced
Summary: Whitney Mercilus was the most productive pass-rusher in college football in 2011. He led the nation in sacks (16) and forced fumbles (9). It was a record-setting season as Mercilus topped Simeon Rice's school record for sacks in a year. Like Rice, Mercilus is a fabulous athlete. He has a special combination of size, speed and strength to go along with excellent technique. Mercilus also recorded 57 tackles and 22.5 tackles for a loss.
Entering the NFL, Mercilus is an advanced pass-rusher. He got the better of the best tackles he faced this season. Against Ohio State's Mike Adams, Mercilus recorded 1.5 sacks with a forced fumble. The Wisconsin Badgers' powerful offensive line couldn't contain Mercilus. He bull rushed through massive right tackle Josh Oglesby to get a sack-fumble on Russell Wilson. Mercilus also knocked out left tackle Ricky Wagner for part of the game.
Mercilus has a very impressive repertoire of pass rushing moves. He attacks with speed around the edge. As a counter to the speed, he has the strength to execute rip moves and shed offensive linemen. Mercilus has the raw power to get under offensive linemen's pads and bull rush into the pocket. That catches linemen by surprise as they are so cognizant of being ready for his speed rush. Beyond his great physical skill set, Mercilus is an advanced pass-rusher technically.
Mercilus holds up well in run defense. Linemen don't push him around, as he is strong at the point of attack. He also will burst into the backfield to disrupt running plays.
The big question regarding Mercilus is why didn't break into the lineup sooner and why didn't he produce more earlier. In 2009 and 2010, Mercilus combined to record 24 tackles with two sacks and 6.5 tackles for a loss.
Player Comparison: Jason Pierre-Paul. There are a lot of similarities between Mercilus and JPP. Both are fantastic athletes who come to the NFL with a special combination of speed and strength. They also were one-year wonders at the college level. Mercilus had more production than JPP in their final college season, and the latter has turned into one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL.
Right now, it looks like Mercilus should get drafted in the same range as JPP. However, it is possible that Mercilus will be this year's Aldon Smith and surprise some by cracking the top 10. It is not out of the question for him to pass North Carolina's Quinton Coples in the lead up to the 2012 NFL Draft. JPP did that with Derrick Morgan in 2010. Projecting Mercilus to the pros, I see a player similar to Pierre-Paul.
NFL Matches: Jacksonville, Chicago, San Diego, New York Jets, Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit
What team couldn't use another pass-rusher? Mercilus has the athletic ability to be a stand-up edge-rusher in 3-4 defenses, and that opens him up to consideration from a lot of teams. He looks like a natural right defensive end in a 4-3 defense who will challenge left tackles.
The Jaguars will have the first crack at Mercilus, and they need an edge rusher. Buffalo, San Diego and the Jets are all 3-4 defenses that need to find a player who can put heat on the quarterback. If Mercilus gets past all of those teams, he could end up in Chicago. They need some young talent for their defense. It would be a significant fall for Mercilus to get to the Browns' second first-round selection, but they could use an end to complete their young front four. The Lions almost took a defensive end last year, and if they don't re-sign Cliff Avril, they might consider trading up to land Mercilus.