Dec 31, 2011; San Francisco CA, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini defensive lineman Whitney Mercilus (85) lines up for a play against the UCLA Bruins during the third quarter at AT

Chicago Bears Draft Prospect Watch Whitney Mercilus: Stud or One-Hit Wonder?

There’s been some growing buzz about Whitney Mercilus, the DE out of Illinois, getting selected by the Chicago Bears at #19 in the upcoming NFL Draft.  Mercilus parlayed an outstanding 2011 season with a strong showing at the Combine in Indianapolis to vault himself into the conversation in the first round.

On the surface, it looks like Mercilus would be a great fit for Lovie Smith’s defense.  He led the nation with 16 sacks and more interestingly for Lovie are the 9 forced fumbles.  Hit the jump to see CBS Sports’ analysis of Mercilus:

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).

Is he a legitimate stud defensive end or a one-hit wonder?  Check out his stats and decide for yourself:

Defense G Solo Asst. Total Sacks/Yds TFL/Yards FF FR P Def
2008 0
2009 11 4 4 8 1 / 7 3.5 / 16
2010 13 8 8 16 1 / 7 3 / 11 2 1
2011 13 28 29 57 16 / 105 22.5 / 123 9 1 1
TOTAL 37 40 41 81 18 / 119 29 / 150 11 1 2

You can’t have a draft preview post without a YouTube highlight reel complete with a dope soundtrack:

It always worries me when a guy comes out of nowhere to have a monster season. Did it just take him 2 years to figure things out?  That’s not a great sign because it gets infinitely harder on Sundays.  Is that sort of performance sustainable?  Is this a guy who only shows up in a contract year?  Does any of it matter if he’s playing opposite Julius Peppers?

What do you think?  If he’s on the board at #19, should the Bears draft him? If not, which defensive end would you prefer they take?

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