Chicago Sun-Times

Bears interested in Illinois DE Whitney Mercilus

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There are three podiums and eight round, eight-seat dinner tables for player interviews in the media center at the NFL Scouting Combine -- the podiums for the Andrew Lucks and Michael Floyds; the tables for the Isaiah Peads and Jake Bequettes.

Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus, a late-bloomer in college who is rising rapidly on the draft charts, literally transitioned from the lower group to the higher one on Saturday. His media interview started at a table. But when he was inundated by reporters and cameras, he was quickly escorted to a podium.

That's how quickly things have been happening for Mercilus. The 6-3, 260-pound Akron, Ohio native was a revelation during the college season. Coming in with just two starts in three years at Illinois, he led the nation with 16 sacks, tied an NCAA record with nine forced fumbles, had 22 1/2 tackles-for-loss and won the Ted Hendricks Award as the nation's top defensive end.

He applied for an evaluation from the NFL advisory committee after that breakout season and was given a third-round grade. He entered the draft anyway and now is projected to go late in the first round and being compared to the New York Giants' Jason Pierre-Paul, who played one year of major-college football at South Florida and was drafted 15th overall in 2010.

When he was asked which teams had shown interest in him, Mercilus listed the ''Bears, Chargers, also the Bills'' -- in that order., a well-respected scouting web site, currently projects the Bears to select Mercilus with the 19th pick in the first round of the NFL draft.

It's the nature of the draft evaluation process that Mercilus' impressive performance at Illinois is actually a point of contention -- how did he go from two starts in the previous two seasons (after redshirting as a true freshman) to 16 sacks and 22 1/2 tackles-for-loss in one year?

''I just was able to put everything together,'' he said. ''I was still learning the game. I was still young. I was still a raw talent. I showed signs of life. Showed flashes in games at time, and I just finally put it all together.''

Mercilus' ability to force fumbles certainly has to interest the Bears and coach Lovie Smith. Bears defensive linemen combined for four forced fumbles last year -- three by Julius Peppers and one by Israel Idonije.

"I just have a knack for it,'' Mercilus said. ''I just time it up right. Throughout the game I was able to watch the quarterback's movements and just see him open up and then I just go in there and just knock it away as soon as I could."

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People are saying he is this years JPP, I don't believe that for a second. He is a very athletic player, he lacks technique and generally uses his physical gifts to get the job done. He is also under sized. Paul is 6'5 280 and has plenty of room to fill out, not so much with Mercilus. He also only faced two good lines this year.

This is a Lovie guy for sure, strips the ball, is undersized, fast, is a lot more athlete than football player at this point. I don't think he is a first year impact guy although the Bears would try ot make him that. JPP took some time to become a starter, and needed a lot of work on his tecjnique before the Giants made him a starter in year two. The kid has a lot of solid measurables, and is an effort guy to boot.

I gotta tell yeah he is quick as all get out and he is not going to last till 19 someone will want to work with him. As for your site Mark, aside from the fact that it needs to be updated, are you kidding me with some of these picks. Nick Perry in the top 12? Ingam is not even listed in the first round?

They think the Titans will take Mark Barron over Ingram or Branch? Or Seattle will take Perry over Ingram, Branch or Mercilus? I am surprised they even remembered Luck was in the draft. Fleener in the first round?

This is the only site I have seen that does not have Ingram in the top 15. He isn't even on their board. Is this a Canadian site, they initialize Cornerback as DC. Defensive Corner? Do they really need to point out that Corners play on defense? Cornerback, Defensive back, but I have never heard them refered to as Defensive Corner. It's either DB which includes Corners and Safeties or CB just for the corners. Also Miami is drafting 8th not Carolina, and Carolina taking Brockers in the top 10? Yeah, who exactly respects this site? Please say the ESPN 1000 local news radio.

I think if floyd is gone they go DE with their first pick, and try and land a free agent WR.. makes sense since the bears had nada on the pass rush and they need to get better..

Yeah, Floyd ran a 4.42 at the Combine. I don't think he'll be around at No. 19...

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Potash published on February 25, 2012 3:37 PM.

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