Illinois junior defensive end Whitney Mercilus had an undeniably great 2011 season for the Fighting Illini, but he is still a question mark in the eyes of some when it comes to his stock in the 2012 NFL Draft. The 6'4, 265 pound end has all the physical tools NFL teams are looking for, especially in a 3-4 scheme. Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN has posted his first mock draft, and he sees Whitney heading to the Green Bay Packers as the No. 28 overall selection. According to ESPN's mock draft guru, the Illinois product is a perfect fit for Green Bay's 3-4 scheme as a stand-up pass rusher from the outside linebacker position. Kiper considers him a good value at the end of the first round.
That generally fits the work done over at SB Nation's NFL Draft site, Mocking the Draft, where Mercilus is ranked as the No. 32 overall prospect on the board. Here is what Mocking the Draft has to say about him:
He led the country in sacks in 2011 with an impressive 16. However, it remains to be seen whether Mercilus can translate his success to the NFL. While he is pretty good at getting leverage off the snap, he tends to break down a bit through contact and can get driven out of plays by stronger offensive linemen. A lot of his sacks came when he was able to pin his ears back and get after the QB without having to worry about playing the run. That could be partly due to his inexperience, but he looks like a guy who will start his career as a situational pass rusher while he develops his run-stopping.