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2012 NFL Mock Draft: Pro Football Talk Projects DE Whitney Mercilus To Bears

In their final mock draft before the 2012 NFL Draft gets underway Thursday night, Pro Football Talk predicts that the Chicago Bears will select defensive end Whitney Mercilus from the University of Illinois.

Related: Chicago Bears/ NFL Draft: Pre-Party Open Thread

The Bears have been connected to Mercilus by a number of draft analysts in the leadup to Thursday night's first round, as the defensive end position is a clear area of need for the franchise. And now that the team has addressed the wide receiver position by acquiring Brandon Marshall from Miami, it could make a defensive selection more likely.

Mercilus had a huge year for the Illini in 2011, finishing the season with 16 sacks.

Stay tuned to SB Nation Chicago for more information, and for in-depth analysis on the Chicago Bears be sure to visit Windy City Gridiron. Drop by SB Nation NFL and Mocking The Draft for comprehensive coverage of the 2012 NFL Draft.