Whitney Mercilus (DE), Illinois
6-4 265 lbs.
57 tackles, 22.5 TFL, 16 sacks, 9 FF
Mid-to-late first round
Mercilus possesses a strong frame with good length and uses his hands to keep himself clean on contact. He displays an impressive wingspan and can overwhelm on contact using natural power on his leg to drive through contact. Showcases a solid spin move once he gets to the edge and can work his way back inside if the tackle is over playing toward the edge. (National Football Post)
One major concern for Mercilus is that he has only had one year of solid production, with only two total sacks going into his junior season. He struggles with pad level through contact and struggles to disengage. He too often allows ball carriers to run right by him on the edge when unblocked and is easily pushed past the pocket. (National Football Post)
Fit for the Bears:
The Bears are known to have interest in Mercilus. Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli traveled to Champaign to put him through a workout last month. After losing out on Mario Williams in free agency, Chicago has made it a priority to improve their pass-rush in the draft. The standout defensive end from Illinois is a natural pass rusher and learning from a future Hall of Famer like Julius Peppers could help ease his transition into the NFL. Mercilus has drawn comparisons to Giants' sack machine Jason Pierre-Paul. If he were to reach that level, it would be a home run pick for Phil Emery and the Bears.
The Missouri Valley Conference returns to CSN with live college hoops action on Wednesday night.
Looking to make a push for the NCAA tournament, Illinois State hosts Southern Illinois at 6 p.m. live on CSN. Then at 7 p.m. on CSN+, Loyola will host Drake in another Valley contest.
The Redbirds (23-5, 15-1) have won four straight games as they are co-leaders of the conference with Wichita State. Senior Deontae Hawkins leads Illinois State in scoring at 14.6 points per game.
Southern Illinois (15-14, 8-8) won on the road at Indiana State to snap a three-game losing streak as they're hoping for a better result after losing to Illinois State at home by seven earlier this season. Senior point guard Mike Rodriguez leads the Salukis in points and assists at 13.0 points and 4.1 assists per game.
In the second game, Loyola is trying to make a move up the conference standings as they host Drake.
The Ramblers (17-12, 7-9) lost to the Bulldogs on the road earlier this season as they enter this one having lost five of six games. Loyola is led by senior Milton Doyle as he leads the Ramblers in points and assists at 15.6 points and 4.3 assists per contest.
Drake (7-21, 5-11) has lost seven straight games but they did get the best of the Ramblers in that 102-98 thriller earlier this season. The Bulldogs do have a talented junior in Reed Timmer as he's putting up 15.6 points per game.
Both of these games are important for Missouri Valley Conference tournament seeding purposes as Arch Madness begins on Thursday, March 2.
You can catch Thursday and Friday's MVC Tournament action live on CSN on March 2 and March 3.
College hoops returns to CSN on Tuesday with some local action as UIC hosts Green Bay. You can watch this Horizon League matchup live on CSN+ at 7 p.m.
The Flames (14-14, 7-8) are coming off of a loss to Oakland as they try to make one more push up the conference standings. Junior big man Tai Odiase leads UIC at 11.3 points per game as the former Homewood-Flossmoor product is also a solid rim protector.
Green Bay (16-11, 10-5) is still fighting for one of the conference's top spots as they're coming off of a win over Milwaukee. The Phoenix already own a four-point win over UIC this season at home in a close game.
Senior guard Charles Cooper is averaging 13.0 points per game as he's been one of the better guards in the conference this season.