Has a good first step that allows him to challenge the edge. Has good speed to chase when you get him in space. Will use his hands to slap down the tackles hands to help him turn the corner off the edge. Will use the bull rush, doing a nice job getting his hands inside and working the tackle backwards. Can even use his speed rush to blow by the guard if he lines up inside in nickel situations. Able to make stops in the backfield in pursuit. Shows ability to get upfield, cutting off the edge from the runner or mobile QB to prevent him from bouncing play outside. Shows some ability to shed the block of the tight end at the point of attack.
Is not very physical at the point of attack, tending to play high at times and get engulfed there. Gets too effectively chipped as a rusher when they put a tight end over him. Is not very effective when he can't use his speed or first step to win. Needs to learn how to use his hands and do a better job disengaging from blockers. Gets caught out of position against the run and misdirection plays, not showing great recognition. Will miss stops and sacks in the backfield because he doesn't always break down well once he gets penetration, and may not be a reliable tackler in the open field.
Mercilus is a one-year wonder that led the nation in sacks as a junior, after two lackluster seasons as a reserve. He did play behind a pretty good college player in Clay Nurse for those years, and when he had his opportunity, he definitely made the most of it this year. But the lack of consistent production makes him somewhat worrisome as an NFL prospect. But he's a good edge player with a good, but not great first step that is still developing, but flashes the potential you like to see. Lost the tip of his left index finger in a weight lifting accident prior to the 2011 season.
2011 GAMES WATCHED:
(11/12) vs. Michigan: 1 sack, 1 stuff, 3 pressures, 1 FF, 1 missed tackle
(12/31) vs. UCLA: 1.5 sacks, 2 TFLs, 0.5 stuffs, 1.5 pressures
2011: 13 GP/13 GS, 57 tackles, 22.5 TFLs, 16.0 sacks, 0 INTs, 1 PD, 9 FF, 1 FR
Mercilus reminds me a bit of Aldon Smith when Smith was at Missouri. Like Smith, Mercilus is mainly a speed guy that I think probably would work best in a 3-4 scheme. I think Mercilus has the potential to be a good rush end in a 4-3, but he's not as physical as you want, and is still a very one-note pass rusher. That likely means that it'll take him the better part of three years before he really develops the technique and ability to be an every down player in that scheme. But in a 3-4, I think he can contribute a bit quicker. Like Smith, I think his ideal situation will be as a situational rusher as a rookie. There he can continue to grow and develop without being forced into the lineup before he's ready. I think it may take him time to develop in a 3-4 as well, but I think the fact that he's fairly one-dimensional won't hurt him as much there as it would as a 4-3 end. I think he has the potential to be an impact pass rusher in either scheme, but his upside is probably a bit higher in a 3-4 scheme and it likely won't require as much development. As 4-3 end, he's going to have to fill out his frame and probably put on at least 15-20 pounds, which will take at least a year and probably another year before he gets comfortable playing at that weight. And the question then becomes how much does that weight gain effect his burst. Probably won't to a huge degree but he's probably not going to be a guy that can win purely with speed off the edge against quality left tackles. So then, he'll have to learn how to add counter moves to exploit his first step. And in the end, it probably means that he's more likely to become a good complementary guy like Ray Edwards rather than the next John Abraham who can really scare defenses by himself. As a rookie, he'd only have to be a situational guy, and in a 4-3 it's not likely that he'll produce as much as he could in a similar role in a 3-4 defense. I don't see him being a boom/bust guy, because eventually I think he'll at least be a solid contributor. But if he doesn't really show much improvement, then he'll be more of a guy that can give you 3 to 5 sacks and be seen as a guy that is a good backup but only so-so starter. In that way, I would say there is some Larry English potential. Although English has been semi-productive when he hasn't been injured. If he reaches his full potential and develops a better array of moves to combine with his speed, then I think he has the potential to be a 10-15 sack guy. Although that will likely only come in a 3-4 scheme.
Aldon Smith, 49ers.
Mercilus would play end for the Falcons, but they would likely try and develop him to be a 3-4 outside linebacker. As a rookie, he'd get reps because of his upside. But in terms of his actual production as a down end, he's unlikely to be any more effective than Sidbury is. Sidbury was an effective role player because he almost never had to play the run, and in such a role it's possible Mercilus could give the Falcons 2 or 3 sacks off the bench right away. In time, he could be groomed as the heir apparent to Abraham as the team's pass rusher, and in Nolan's 3-4 scheme which will use him primarily as an edge rusher, he does offer some potential to fill the niche that Cameron Wake had in Miami under Nolan. The Falcons probably wouldn't start to see that sort of production however until his third or so year since that's likely the time it would take for them to fully transition to the style of 3-4 scheme that could take advantage of Mercilus's skillset.
Mercilus upside would not make him a reach in the Top 15 or so picks of the draft, but because of the likelihood that he isn't going to come in right away and impact he's probably a better value in the latter half of the first. But as a Top 20 or 25 pick, no team should be concerned with rolling the dice on his potential.
1-pathetic, 2-poor, 3-weak, 4-below average, 5-average, 6-above average, 7-good, 8-very good, 9-excellent, 10-elite
Pass Rush: 7.0
Point of Attack: 5.0
Scouting reports of the defensive ends in the 2012 Draft.
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