Chicago Sun-Times

Mayock: Whitney Mercilus could be another Aldon Smith

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Most, if not all signs, point to the Bears taking a defensive player with the 19th pick of the first round in the NFL draft next week. Among players who are likely to be available and worthy of the 19th overall pick, South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore is considered a good fit for Lovie Smith's Cover-2 defense. But Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus, who led the nation in sacks (16) and had nine forced fumbles in 2011, might be the most intriguing.

Defensive ends are hit-and-miss at almost any stage of the draft. The last three top-five picks were LSU's Tyson Jackson (No. 3 to the Chiefs in 2009), Virginia's Chris Long (No. 2 to the Rams in 2008) and Clemson's Gaines Adams (No. 4 to the Buccaneers in 2007). At No. 19 it's particularly dicey.

But NFL network draft analyst Mike Mayock indicated the late-blooming Mercilus might be worth the risk for the Bears. The scouting report on Mercilus is enticing. But so were the scouting reports on Tyson Jackson -- and he went third overall.

What to make of it? I asked Mayock if there was anything about Mercilus that makes him any more or less of a risk than previous defensive ends drafted in the second half of the first round. Here's what he said:

''On the positive side, there's production, albeit one year of production, which scares some teams -- 16 sacks, nine forced fumbles -- crazy numbers for one year, which begs the question, 'Where were you before then?'

''However, when you look at what he is on tape, he's a natural pass rusher. He's a natural edge rusher. He's got excellent take-off. He understands how to work up the field. Does he need to learn technique and more pass-rush moves? Yes, because right now like a lot of gifted college kids, he depends on his speed to win.

''He's one of the most gifted natural pass rushers in this draft. What I would say is that even though he repped out 225, 27 times and the numbers look good on tape he can struggle at the point of attack in the run game and I think that's the biggest concern -- if you draft him today in the first round, how many snaps are you going to get out of him? Maybe it'll be similar to what Aldon Smith did with San Francisco [14 sacks as a rookie in 2011] -- he's a situational pass rusher that's disruptive and effective and he'll grow into that point-of-attack role where he'll be a three-down player.

''But I think that's only real downside, is can he be stout enough at the point of attack down the road to justify being a first-round pick?''

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If he is capable of being what Aldon Smith was, and Mark Anderson before him, it would make it a very successful draft pick for Emery's first one.

I am torn on this, because I believe the Bears will take a Defensive end at 19, or wherever they end up picking, but I think they should consider Martin for OL instead, which to me is a more glaring need. Unless they are planning to put Carimi at LT, that is the position of biggest need in my opinion, and the caliber of player at LT drops considerably after Kalil, Reiff, and Martin.

For defensive end, they can look at Cam Johnson, Vinny Curry, and in the later rounds, a guy who I think can be very good as a rookie, Julian Miller out of West Virginia. Mark Anderson was a 5th rounder, and there are several guys who went in the 3rd, 4th, or later who have developed into decent pass rushers. Not as many OTs who have come later in the draft that have turned into good blind side protectors.
We absolutely need a pass rusher, and if Mercilus is as good as Aldon Smith was, there would be no looking back from the pick. But if Cutler gets taken out because Webb comes out of his stance and stands up before he moves his feet, because he's a little tired after 4 or 5 plays, Mercilus won't be able to help. If Martin is there, we should take him. If not, I am fine with the DE, and we can try and get Massie in the second round.

Should be a very interesting draft.

I thought Smith played ROLB for the 49ers. I could see Mercilus playing LB in a 3-4. I don't think either guy has JPP ability though. Smith always played in ideal situations to rush the passer, I have never been huge on situational pass rushers. At least not as first round picks. It's basically a cherry picking job, they are like the nickle corner. The numbers can look good but that's only because they are always put in good situations by everyone else. Smith player 500 snaps, and did a good job, but I am not going to go crazy for situational guys. Bears need a starter. A guy like Paul who was eqaually as good against the run as he was rushing the passer.

Tough to tell which this kid is, but I think he would be better in a 3-4 in the long run. But you never know, he has a lot of athletic ability. But how many elite college Tackles did he go against?

I always find comparisons funny, nobody ever says he reminds me of Ray Edwards, it's always a big name. Could be the worst player in draft history but someone will compare him to a top player in the nfl. He reminds me more of Mark Anderson who just came off a big year, but again he was a situational guy.

I can see Chicago taking South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore, despite the fact they signed 2 corners in free agency and resigned one of their own, Tim Jennings. Even if a receiver like Baylors Kendall Wright were to fall to #19, I can see Phil Emery pulling the trigger, despite the fact Chicago traded for Marshall and signed 2 receivers in free agency. Emery might be a "best player available" type of GM? We won't really know till draft day.

Myself, I think Chicago's going defensive end. Its pretty obvious they need an end. All they have right now is Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije, who was signed to a 1 year deal. Chicago's thin at the DE position right now. Emery might be the type of GM that likes to keep his draft plans quiet, but Chicago has been all over the defensive end prospects, from Bruce Irvin of West Virginia, to Vinny Curry of Marshall, and have recently brought in South Carolina's Melvin Ingram, who they don't have a chance at, unless they trade up? I doubt that. But still, you get my point. This could all be smoke screening, the fact they've been all over these different DE prospects? But I think its safe to say Chicago is gonna draft a DE in either the first or second round.

I like, and still think Chicago's gonna draft Illinois Whitney Mercilus at #19. I also agree with Mike Mayock, Mercilus is the real deal despite being a one year wonder. Mercilus just sems to have that ability to get to the quarterback and make plays behind the line of scrimmage. And its not like he did it vs lesser competition. This year vs Wiscosin, 1 sack and a forced fumble, vs Michigan, 1 sack, a forced fumble and a tackle for loss, vs Penn St, 1.5 sacks, and a forced fumble, vs Purdue, 5 tackles and 2 TFL, vs Ohio St, 9 tackles and 1.5 sacks, vs Indiana, 3 sacks, and vs Arizona St, 2 sacks. Mercilus led the nation in sacks and did it in the Big-Ten. I think the kid is gonna be special. Bring him in and line him up with J-Pep GO BEARS!!

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Potash published on April 19, 2012 4:54 PM.

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