6'3 1/4, 261 pounds | Defensive end | Illinois
Pass rush: Mercilus has a nice first step off the line of scrimmage, which he uses to get past blockers and into the quarterback. Is strong at the point of attack to use the bull rush, but agile enough to spin. Likes to work to the inside instead of turning the corner. Played both right and left end. At times used without his hand in the ground rushing the middle. Likes to time the snap, which he'll sometimes get caught off sides. Started only one season at Illinois and had little production before his breakout junior season. But when he led the nation in sacks in 2011, it was stretched throughout the season and didn't come in spurts.
Pursuit: Shows good effort when the play isn't coming in his direction. Played hard in 2011 when he was finally given a chance to play. Wasn't consistent on an every down basis, however. Solid athlete for the position. Knows to get his hands up when he can't close on the quarterback. Change of direction is only decent.
Run defense: Needs to locate the ball faster in the run game. Will get mixed up on draws and fakes. Mercilus splits double teams pretty well, which helps him get into the backfield. Isn't the kind of end who can hold the edge in the run game. That's a reason why some consider him more of a linebacker in the NFL. Led the nation in forced fumbles with nine in 2011.
Strength: Has solid strength but may need to add more power to his game at the next level. Mercilus tends to beat linemen with his first step instead of power. While he can bull rush, Mercilus doesn't seem to trust his natural strength as much as he should. That will come, though, with more repetitions. When he can't split the double with quickness, he doesn't have the strength to disengage.
Tackling: Sound tackler. Uses his long arms to properly wrap around the ball carrier and take him down. Isn't a guy who will blow opponents up, though.
Technique: Still developing from a technical standpoint in his hand usage and leverage. Doesn't always extending his arms out through contact and can get stonewalled. Keeps his legs moving, though.
Final word: Because of his first step, Mercilus should immediately contribute in the NFL as a pass rusher. His play is reminiscent of Jabaal Sheard, who had a good rookie season for the Cleveland Browns. Left school to help his family financially.