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2012 NFL Draft: Illinois' Whitney Mercilus Drafted 26th Overall By Houston

The Houston Texans have drafted Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus with the 26th overall pick in this year's NFL draft, giving the team a new pass rusher to replace the recently departed Mario Williams. The former No. 1 overall pick left Houston during the offseason to sign a long-term deal with the Buffalo Bills.

In Mercilus, the Texans get one of the elite pass rushers in the nation from last season. In his breakout 2011 season, he was a consensus All-American for the Fighting Illini, leading the nation with 16 sacks and nine forced fumbles while playing in the competitive Big Ten Conference.

He's the fourth defensive end selected in the draft so far, following UNC's Quinton Coples (taken 16th by New York), South Carolina's Melvin Ingram (taken 18th by San Diego) and Syracuse's Chandler Jones (taken 21st by New England).

Stay tuned to SB Nation Chicago for more information. Drop by SB Nation NFL and Mocking The Draft for comprehensive coverage of the 2012 NFL Draft. For more on Illini football, be sure to check out Illinois blog Hail to the Orange.