Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus will make a stop in Berea during his tour of pre-draft visits with NFL teams.
Mercilus, an Akron native and Garfield High School graduate, is scheduled to visit the Browns on Sunday, he told the Beacon Journal this afternoon in a phone interview. Mercilus is also planning to meet with several other organizations next month.
“I want to say there’s about five or six teams that I’m flying to,” Mercilus said. “We’ll see how it goes. It’s all up in the air, up for grabs ‘cause after free agency, needs change. We’ll see once April 26 comes who picks me up. A lot of people tell me on draft boards they’ve got me projected to go here or there, but those don’t mean anything. It’s just what teams need what and what’s the best player available to pick at the time. So we’ll see.”
Mercilus led the nation with 16 sacks and nine forced fumbles last season as a junior. He believes his strong performances at the NFL Scouting Combine and Illinois’ Pro Day prove he is athletic enough to play right end in a 4-3 defense or outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.
“I was getting knocked on for having stiff hips and not being able to change direction well,” said Mercilus, who's projected as a first-round pick by NFLDraftScout.com. “I feel like I knocked the monkey off my back and cleared that up. I think I’m very versatile. I can play whatever [teams] want me to play, either a 3-4 outside linebacker or a 4-3 true right end. I feel like I’m a pretty solid player all around. I don’t think there’s any task that I can’t handle, and I don’t think any team will put me in a position where I can’t handle it.”
With the Browns acquiring defensive ends Frostee Rucker and Juqua Parker in free agency, the chances they would draft Mercilus have seemingly decreased. Still, they will host him as they continue to explore countless scenarios leading up to the draft.