Whitney Mercilus probably improved on the third-round grade he got from the NFL draft advisory board with a strong combine and he may have improved on it even more during Illinois’ Pro Day workout on Tuesday.
Mercilus didn’t try to best his strong combine performances in the 40 or bench press, but he improved on his results in the short-shuttle and three-cone drills. But his most impressive work came during on-field drills where, according to Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune, he looked like a quick and explosive pass rusher. Pompei reports that Mercilus created a buzz among scouts during outside linebacker drills with three of them remarking on how smooth and fluid he looked while going through the workout.
Jaguars defensive line coach Joe Cullen ran the workout and, per Pompei, had dinner with Mercilus on Monday night. In total, 29 different teams were represented at the workout although no general managers made the trip to Champaign.
Mercilus put together a great 2011 season with the Illini, finishing with 16 sacks, but it was his only full year as a starter. That’s created some question about whether or not he’s a one year wonder that won’t hold up over the long haul against better competition. Pass rushing is at such a premium in the NFL right now that some team is likely to take the risk that Mercilus will be able to repeat his performance as a junior once he gets to the NFL.