The official 2012 NFL combine invite list has been released, and Illinois Fighting Illini defensive end Whitney Mercilus and Notre Dame Fighting Irish wide receiver Michael Floyd are the top prospects from schools with strong ties to the Chicagoland area. Mercilus and Floyd are both projected as first-round selections in the 2012 NFL draft, and their performance at the combine could determine whether they are selected in the top half of the round or pushed into the early second round. Although the pay scale for rookies has been altered in collective bargaining, there is still much at stake for both players as they attempt to show scouts they can excel at the professional level.
Related: NFL Mock Draft
The University of Illinois has four players who received an invite for the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, IN -- DE Whitney Mercilus, OL Jeffery Allen, K Derek Dimke, and WR A.J. Jenkins. Meanwhile, Notre Dame has six participants listed -- DB Robert Blanton, OL Anthony Dever, LB Darius Fleming, WR Michael Floyd, RB Jonas Gray and DB Harrison Smith.
The Northwestern Wildcats will be represented by TE Drake Dunsmore. Two other notable invitees are RB Jewel Hampton of the Southern Illinois Salukis and QB Chandler Harnish from the Northern Illinois Huskies.
For more NFL news and notes, head over to SB Nation Pro Football, and stay tuned to SB Nation Chicago for more Bears updates and analysis. For more in-depth analysis of the Bears, visit Windy City Gridiron. For more in-depth analysis of the Irish, visit One Foot Down. For more on Mercilus, be sure to check out Illinois blog Hail to the Orange.