The 2012 NFL Draft Combine is just a few weeks away, and Illinois Fighting Illini defensive end Whitney Mercilus is busy trying to prove he belongs in the first-round of the draft. His eye-opening performance as junior pass rusher put him on the map as a potentially elite prospect or not, but plenty of scouts are still skeptical that he can keep up that level of play at the professional level.
Wes Bunting of the National Football Post created a list of defensive prospects in need of a strong performance at the draft combine in Indianapolis, and Mercilus appears at the top:
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.
Bunting's analysis doesn't seem to suggest there isn't anything Mercilus can do to assuage fears that he lacks the necessary "feel for the game" before the draft, but if his performance in combine drills can make a team believe in him at the top of the draft, an opportunity to shine in the NFL might be all he really needs anyways.
For updates, stay tuned to SB Nation Chicago. For more on Mercilus, be sure to check outIllinois blog Hail to the Orange. Head over to SB Nation's NFL news hub for more on the 2012 NFL draft.