One of the more intriguing prospects in this year’s draft, Whitney Mercilus is fun to watch on tape. Perhaps the best thing about him is that he probably hasn’t played his best football yet, and that’s coming off a season where he led the nation in sacks. Mercilus is relentless and has a high motor. Effort is never in question with him. He’s at his best when he can pin his ears back and rush the passer and will probably have to play in space to fully utilize his skill set. I see him as a 3-4 rush linebacker and while he can probably play 4-3 end, I think 3-4 teams will fall in love with his tape. His stats may be a bit inflated because he certainly benefited from several blown assignments, missed blocks and running backs with ineffective cut blocks. However, that’s not a knock. Mercilus always took advantage of those situations and you can’t say that for every prospect. Many want to label him as a 1 year wonder but if you look, Mercilus was a backup for the majority of his sophomore season. He did start 2 games and had several tackles for a loss and a few sacks. Basically, his progression was almost natural into a starting role and when he got there, he took advantage of it. Speed is the name of the game for Mercilus but he understands how to use leverage to his advantage.
Not the best area of Mercilus’ game but he’s far from a slouch. Does have some trouble shedding stronger blockers (see the Wisconsin game….ouch). Needs to show the active hands he has as a pass rusher while playing the run. Does a nice job keeping his head up but will get tricked by misdirection plays at times. Can anchor at the point of attack and set the edge when required. Doesn’t get driven off the ball against strong blockers but often ends in a stalemate situation. Excellent pursuit down the line and takes good angles when given the opportunity. Will chase down the ball carrier from behind. When he trusts his instincts or what he’s seen on film, he can blow up a running play. If he gets inside the blocker’s body, he’ll use leverage to his advantage and drive the blocker backwards.
Wasn’t asked to do much of any coverage and will need to focus on this area if drafted by a 3-4 team. However, like most “tweener” prospects, teams are aware of this and will allow him to mainly rush the passer at first and develop coverage skills as he goes along.
Strongest aspect of Mercilus’ game. At his best when he lines up as a wide 9 technique and runs the arc. Has an excellent dip/rip move. Displays active hands and always seems to find a way to collapse the pocket. Rarely does he not impact the passer in some way, whether it’s forcing the QB to step up in the pocket, flushing him out of the pocket, or getting a hit. Will go for the strip when given the opportunity. Doesn’t have a wide array of pass rush moves yet but has shown a spin (albeit a delayed spin), and a quick inside swim. Rushed from a 2-point stance at times and looks explosive when doing so. Locks out the blocker and drives them backwards. At his best when matching up one-on-one with the blocker as a double team will all but completely remove him from the play. Relies on his speed and athleticism a bit too much at times. Changes directions very well and appears nimble. Was also lined up at various other spots along the offensive line, including defensive tackle at times. Relentless rusher that seems to always have his motor running hot. Has an explosive first step but it’s not consistent.
Mercilus is an effective, wrap-up tackler that rarely lets the ball carrier get away from him. Goes for the strip when he gets the opportunity but doesn’t miss the tackle because of it. Likes to be involved in the tackle in some way and will chase the ball carrier down to do so. Not a thumper but is far from soft. Appears fundamentally sound overall.