Whitney Mercilus had a huge breakout year for the Illinois Fighting Illini in 2011, and was good enough to perhaps work his way into the first round of the 2012 NFL draft. In his latest mock draft, SB Nation's Ryan Van Bibber projects the defensive lineman will get drafted by the New England Patriots with pick No. 31.
2012 is shaping up to be the year of the scheme versatile pass rusher. That probably sets up some teams for disappointment. Mercilus does not look like a prospect who will disappoint. He has the speed and power to get around blockers and get to the passer, something he did with regularity last season. If he had more than one year of starting experience under his belt, he might get picked higher. Tweener or not, he's the kind of player the Patriots will find a way to use.
Mercilus finished the 2011 season with 16 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss.
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