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2012 NFL Draft: Whitney Mercilus Among The Players With A Lot To Prove

The highly touted Illinois Fighting Illini defensive end Whitney Mercilus may have led Division I football with 16 sacks and won the 2011 Ted Hendricks Award, the Bill Willis Lineman Award, and a slew of other recognitions, but football analyst Jason Garrison says Mercilus still has a lot to prove at the 2012 NFL Combine.

According to Garrison, the Illini lineman has to prove he is not just a one hit wonder:

2: Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois

The NFL is a passing league, and when three players throw for more then 5,000 yards in one season, defenses need to figure out a way to stop them. One way to do that is to have guys who know how to get to the quarterback. Mercilus is potentially one of those guys, but needs to prove that he can do it consistently. Mercilus has had one big season so this is a time for him to explain to teams what happened in 2009 and 2010 when he combined for just two sacks. If he has a good Combine, he could rise up draft boards. Teams love pass rushers.

Mericilus also is aware that some scouts have also been questioning his physical abilities in addition to his statistics. According to his public draft diary, he looks to prove them wrong too:

I want to show the NFL I am fluid with my movements, and that I have great hips. I heard I was getting knocked on that. I've been doing everything I can here so I'll be ready to show them I can even be an outside linebacker in a 3-4, as well a 4-3 right end. If they want me to do outside linebacker drills at the combine, I will.

Coming in at No. 1 in Garrison's list is ILB Vontze Burfict of the Arizona St. Sun Devils, whose potential character issues have seemingly killed all the buzz surrounding his talent.

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. Check out Mocking The Draft's prospect rankings for a look at the bigger NFL draft picture.