The San Diego Chargers desperately need to add a pass rusher on their defensive line. San Diego went from being tied for second in the National Football League with 47 team sacks in 2010, to being tied for 23rd in this category with 32 sacks during the 2011 season. San Diego’s d-linemen combined for 11.5 sacks in 2011 while Antwan Barnes had 11 sacks at outside linebacker. San Diego has the 18th pick in the upcoming draft. I am choosing former Illinois Fighting Illini defensive end Whitney Mercilus in the Rant Sports 2012 NFL Mock Draft. Mercilus, who stands at 6-4 and 265 pounds, led the NCAA with 16 sacks during the 2011 season.
The Chargers were tied for last in forcing fumbles during the 2011 season. San Diego forced seven fumbles last year, while Mercilus was tied for second in the NCAA with nine forced fumbles. According to cbssports.com, Mercilus is ranked third at the defensive end position with Quinton Coples and Nick Perry being ranked ahead of him. According to mock draft positions on the site, Coples is expected to be drafted no lower than 12th, while Perry and Mercilus are expected to be drafted in the first or second round.
Mercilus may be viewed by some as a one hit wonder because he only recorded two sacks before his 2011 season, but that one hit was a great one. Perry may still be available by the time San Diego is ready to select their player, but Perry had 9.5 sacks in 2011, which is 6.5 fewer sacks than Mercilus, and Perry is 6-3, 250 pounds compared to Mercilus who is 6-4, 265 pounds. The overall ranking of the offensive lines Perry and Mercilus faced has to be included when talking about their 2011 season, but the 15 extra pounds of weight is an advantage for Mercilus when one faces 300 plus pound offensive linemen in the NFL.
The lack of a pass rusher on the d-line was one of San Diego’s biggest weaknesses during the 2011 season. Their offense was ranked sixth overall, while their defense was ranked 16th. The addition of a pass rusher like Mercilus will also take pressure away from a San Diego secondary that ranked 13th against the pass. When a team has that dominant pass rusher on the d-line, it allows the linebackers to mix up their coverage, and it picks up the secondary if they are beat in coverage because the d-lineman may sack the quarterback before he is able to hit his receiver in stride. Mercilus should be a perfect fit with the Chargers.