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New York Jets Draft Prospect Spotlight-DE Whitney Mercilus, Illinois

By Alan Schechter

The Next Jets Edge Pass Rusher? Possibly. Picture from US Presswire

Let’s take a break from Tim Tebowmania for a few minutes and start to look ahead to April and the draft. The Jets clearly need an edge pass rusher. Since the off season, coach Rex Ryan has mentioned this as a top priority. Let’s take a look at a prospect that looks to be available when the Jets pick on the first round, Whitney Mercilus, defensive end out of Illinois.

Mercilus has the potential to be the guy. The scouts talk about how he can play on the end as defensive end, or can be a pass rushing linebacker out of the 3-4, which the Jets run.

He played very limited at Illinois in 2009 after being redshirted in 2008. He does only have 1 starting season under his belt, but what a season it was. Whitney led the country in 2011 with 16 sacks, and was second in NCAA history with 9 forced fumbles. He decided to seize on his big junior year, and to help his family financially, by bypassing his senior year and entering the NFL draft.

His positives are his explosiveness as a pass rusher. He has a great first step, has great natural speed and can close quickly to make the tackle. He’s a good tackler, prides himself on how he can finish tackles (a la David Harris).

His major weaknesses are in the run game. At 6-4, 261 pounds, he has adequate strength, but not great. He apparently doesn’t have a lot of room to grow in bulk either. He has difficulty shedding blocks in the running game, and he has difficulty locating the football, which renders him out of position on plays. This is not a positive, as the Jets run defense spent a great deal of time out of position in 2011. Remember? It was bad, especially for a Rex Ryan led defense.

Although he plays hard, another one of his knocks is sometimes he forgets to think about fundamentals and technique. He will be offsides, caught out of position as mentioned before…these types of errors.

Can this guy be the guy? Maybe. But with his flaws, he seems to be like a player that could benefit from one more year of college. He just may not be polished enough yet to be the guy the Jets are looking for, and should think elsewhere.

What do you think of Whitney Mercilus?  Could he be a good fit on the Jets?  Feel free to comment.