Mike Mayock, former New York Giants’ safety and well respected Draft guru for the NFL Network, participated in a private pre-draft interview on Thursday. The transcript was later released by the League.
Mayock has produced some of the most accurate Mock Drafts in recent years and was asked a host of questions, not the least significant of which was his take on Illinois’ defensive end Whitney Mercilus.
Mocks all across the country (including our own) suggest Mercilus could be selected by the Chicago Bears with the 19th overall pick next week, and Mayock seems to think the risk could be worth the reward . . .
On his single year of solid production:
“I think on the positive side, there's production,” Mayock said. “Albeit one-year production, which scares some teams—crazy numbers for one year—which begs the question, where were you before then?”
On his technique and skill-set:
“When you look at what he is on tape, he's a natural pass rusher. He's a natural edge rusher. He's got excellent take off. He understands how to work up the field. Does he need to learn technique and more pass rush moves? Yes, because right now, like a lot of gifted college kids, he depends on his speed to win. And, on tape, he can struggle at the point of attack in the run game.”
On his value in the 2012 Draft:
“He's one of the most gifted natural pass rushers in this draft. I think the biggest concern is if you draft him in the first-round, how many snaps you are going to get out of him. Maybe it will be similar to what [Aldon] Smith did in San Francisco; a situational pass rusher who’s disruptive and effective, and he will grow into that point of attack role where he'll be a three-down player. But I think that's really the only side is can he be stout enough at the point of attack down the road to justify being a first-round pick.”
I’m not at all sold on Mercilus at No. 19. Nobody, of course, knows who will be on the board when the Bears’ turn comes round, but the bottom line is they need to nail that pick. If you don’t feel like you can do that, trade down and stockpile. I’m good with that. No, it’s not easy for any team to nail it at 19, but that’s not an excuse either. Emery has to do what he’s being paid to do next week.
There are just too many questions with Mercilus to be confident in that pick; the biggest of all being exactly what Mayock said: where has this kid’s production been throughout his college career? That question doesn’t just scare teams; it tends to downright terrify them. The systematic approach Phil Emery has taken in Free Agency, leads me to believe he’ll do the same in the Draft. Will he really gamble on Mercilus? Who knows.
Whitney’s ability to anchor against the run is also big question mark, and many have dubbed him a one-trick pony. He doesn’t play with a high level of intensity and isn’t the most athletic player on the board. And, pick No. 19 or not, I want an every-down contributor out of my first-round selection, not a situational player.
When I look at Mercilus schematically, I also wonder just how versatile he can be. In a 3-4 scheme, as an OLB, being asked to simply rush the passer, I think he could be very effective. But in the Bears 4-3, he leaves much to be desired.
Or how about life after Julius Peppers? Not that he’s on his way out the door, but there are quite a few Draft prospects who I think could be effective opposite a player like that. One of Mercilus’ strengths is his size/speed combo, which is great if Peppers is there to draw the extra attention, but does he have the moves to beat a double team himself?
The problem is, of course, despite the questions, Mercilus may still be the best prospect at defensive end should the Bears choose to go in that direction when it’s their turn to pick at 19; which is also why I’m not at all resigned to the Bears taking a DE if Emery feels he has a better prospect on his board at another position. By all means . . .
My wish list:
Personally, North Carolina’s Quinton Coples is my favorite DE in this year’s Draft and, while I don’t think he’ll make it out of the top-10, he’s worth keeping an eye on. After all, DT Nick Fairley was at one time considered a candidate for the No. 1 overall pick in 2011, and the Lions were able to snag him at No. 12. Perhaps a more attainable prospect might be Alabama DE Courtney Upshaw, who the Bears could find themselves within reach of. I’d take him over Mercilus in a heartbeat. Guess we’ll see . . .