Continuing our look at some of the players that the Jets may want to consider in the 2012 draft, next up is Whitney Mercilus. There is absolutely no doubt that Whitney had a beast of a 2011 season, leading the nation in sacks with 16. He forced 9 fumbles on the season which is a Big Ten record and second most by a single player in NCAA history. He also led the Big Ten in tackles for loss with 22.5. He earned first team all American honours, and won the Hendricks award for being the best defensive end in college. Named as the best defensive player in College Football at the national college football performance awards. A team captain who did everything right in 2011.
So looking at the numbers above, why are more people not talking about him? He's a Junior coming out early, 2011 was his first year starting for Illinois after limited action in 2010 and 2009. He was part of a great defensive unit that ranked in the top 10 nationally. Is he a flash in the pan, one year wonder on a great team. I don't think so, he can only perform when given a chance, in 2011 he was given a chance and he performed. It's as simple as that for me, he has the upside with game time.
So join me after the jump for some positives, negatives and highlights
A high motor non stop pass rusher. He plays with a quick first step and finds ways to get into the backfield. Attacks the gaps before lineman even know that he was on them. Plays all across the defensive front to keep blocking schemes guessing and won't stop in pursuit until the whistle is blown. Plays with good hands to knock off attempts to engage. A very good wrap up tackler who gets his hands in to the right areas to cause turnovers. Has very good length, able to attack around the edge with speed or find a way through the middle. A very smart player with his pass rushing technique, not uncommon to see him quickly switch from a bull to spin to confuse the offensive lineman. Is a strong guy with plenty of desire to improve. As far as I am aware there are no character issues with Whitney and he has never been in trouble.
Only one year as a starter so his football intangibles are still a little raw. Has a quick first step but sometimes it's too quick and can give away some penalties. Needs to improve in the run game, when not rushing the passer he does have a tendency to get tied up, can't expand and plays narrow. Should take up more space than he does. Doesn't find the football very well and doesn't have the fluid hips to change direction in pursuit on any misdirection. Doesn't always wrap up running backs like he does quarterbacks and can get beaten to the outside far too easily.
I have a lot of time for Whitney because I think as a one year starter he does things that are hard to teach and needs to work on things that can be taught. I wouldn't expect him to be as finished as someone like Upshaw but he has as much upside in my opinion. He has the size and the frame and the motor that will make people take notice. The one concern is the inability to find the ball, which shows a short coming in instincts. It doesn't mean he can't improve, but it is a concern. 16 is too high for Whitney but if we did decide to trade back into the mid 20's. I wouldn't hate grabbing Whitney.