Though Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill holds the crown for the most polarizing player in this year's draft, people familiar with the game should understand why Mercilus is a close second. Their is a popular idea is that any pass rusher that has a great senior year is going to be the next Jason Pierre-Paul. While Mercilus had a great year, there were so many intangibles that JPP possessed that led to his success that are being unfairly assumed of Mercilus.
Here, I hope to shed some light on what he does that is praise worthy, and also what makes me cringe.
Say what you will about Mercilus this year, but he got results. His 16 sacks led the NCAA. Mercilus also didn't record all of his sacks against weaker competition. He had to fight and beat offensive tackles from Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
A stat that has gone under the radar are the nine fumbles he forced his senior year. Of course sacks are important, but while a sack can cause a ten yard loss, a forced fumble can cause a change of possession. Which of those two do you think helps determine games more?
While stats can be manipulated, they can't be altered. Even though in my opinion Ingram, Perry, and Upshaw are much better defensive end prospects, Mercilus has more sacks and forced fumbles than any of them. That doesn't tell the whole story but it says that he did make plays.
Mercilus is very frustrating when you look at his consistency, not just on a yearly basis but from play to play. He isn't like Coples where he will disappear for weeks at a time, but one play he can wow you and the next you wouldn't even know he was on the field.
In the run game, he looks at the ball too much. He may be able to use fear of the cutback as an excuse, but I expect more tenacity from a defender with 18 tackles for loss. Also, he gives up after first contact to often. If he doesn't see an opening he seems content to just stand there and hold his blocker from reaching the second level. That's a great quality if you are 6-6 280 lbs. but no one wants a 4-3 defensive end that is just a space eater. Ask the Titan's Derrick Morgan.
He needs to prove in private workouts that he can go full-speed, series after series, and that he is more of an every-down player than his tape indicates.
Pro: High Football IQ
When you watch Mercilus play, at first glace, some plays surprisingly lack explosion. On closer inspection though, you can see he is actually playing with control. Instead of automatically biting on play fakes, he reads his blocks and is in position to stop the big play. Whether this means working down the line on counters, play-action bootlegs, or holding a block until he can figure out where the hole will be.
Also, while me may not be able to overpower an offensive tackle consistently, he can outsmart them. Some of his best plays are change up plays. I wouldn't exactly call them counter moves, but he attacks them in new ways whether that is finding their weak side, or attacking lower/higher than he usually does with his hands.
Con: No stand out qualities or moves
This may be his downfall as a pass rusher in the NFL. Every great pass rusher has a signature rush move that sets him apart from the rest. Freeney has his spin, Reggie White had his club, and even Bruce Smith had the head slap. You can even look at the prospects in this draft: Upshaw: power rush, Perry: outside speed, Ingram: inside spin.These move not only help you beat a player, but if you can develop a counter move that's when you can really rack up the sacks.
If Mercilus wants to be successful, it would be a great plan for him to work on a club or a swim move. These moves don't require overwhelming strength or speed, but if he perfects them, they can be deadly against mid-level starters in the NFL.
These are just a few things GMs and fans should be looking at when they see Mercilus. If you have any notes or if you would like to see me go deeper into this just leave a comment. Also, if you would like to see me do this on any other players leave a comment with the player and what you think I should look for. Thanks for reading!