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NFL Draft 2012, Whitney Mercilus: Illinois Defensive Lineman Could Land In New England

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.

Related: Illinois DE Whitney Mercilus Headed To Patriots In National Football Post Mock

Mercilus finished the 2011 season with 16 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss.

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.