Mercilus solidifies first-round status at Illinois pro day

Illinois DE Whitney Mercilus answered the most pressing questions surrounding his draft stock during Tuesday’s pro day and solidified himself as a sure-fire first-round selection.

Mercilus (6-foot-3 7/8, 258 pounds) ran a 4.38-second short shuttle and a 7.03-second three-cone drill. He looked good, and performed well in the subsequent workouts. He answered the question of whether he can be the guy who plays in a 3-4 defense because of his ability to play in space. Mercilus was solid closing in on pass receivers in space. Combine his coverage ability and his knack for rushing the passer (14 sacks last season) and he should be a first-day draft pick.

In addition to Mercilus, 18 other players worked out in front of all 32 teams. The pro day was held indoors and conducted on field turf.

Here’s who else made an impression:

Jeff Allen, OL (6-4 1/8, 310) — Stood on everything from the combine, except he ran a 4.78-second short shuttle and a 7.57-second three-cone drill. He looked OK, not particularly great in the drills. He’s a big tackle with long arms, which is what everyone is looking for.

A.J. Jenkins, WR (6-0 1/8, 186) — Jenkins ran a 4.06-second short shuttle and a 6.73-second three-cone drill. He looked good catching the ball and running routes. It’s so hard to predict WRs because there are so many of them, but he ran extremely well at the combine, and he caught the ball well Tuesday. Anytime you’ve got a guy over 6-feet tall, runs a sub-4.4 40-yard dash and who catches the ball well, that’s an indicator he’s a third-, fourth-round type of guy.

Tavon Wilson, DB (5-11, 205) — Wilson, who wasn’t at the combine, will probably be a third-day selection. He ran a 4.5-second and 4.55-second 40-yard dash. He then posted a 32-inch vertical jump, 10-4 broad jump, 4.16-second short shuttle, 7.04-second three-cone drill. He also bench pressed 225 pounds 17 times. Wilson looked good in the DB drills and, in all likelihood, he’s a third-day draft pick. He played cornerback in college, but he translates as a free safety in the NFL.

Hawaii also held its pro day on Monday outdoors on field turf. All 32 teams were in attendance and 16 players worked out. DT Vaughn Meatoga stood out. He was at the combine, and all he did Monday was a 31-inch vertical, and a 9-2 broad jump. Meatoga looked very good moving around in drills, and he was worked out by two DL coaches (one from the Bengals and one from the Chiefs). Kansas City assistant Anthony Pleasant took him out to dinner.

Cal Poly’s Asa Jackson ran again on Monday at his school’s pro day. He ran a 4.47- and a 4.46-second 40, had a 37.5-inch vertical jump and looked good in his position drills.

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