If our ESPN.com blogger mock draft provides any indication as to how the real thing will go, the NFC North's primary section of the first round -- No. 19 through No. 28 -- will be a prime landing spot for a number of the pass-rushing defensive ends/outside linebackers some of our teams are coveting.
I connected Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus with the Chicago Bears at No. 19 and, as we discussed in more detail Tuesday, slotted Boise State linebacker Shea McClellin for the Green Bay Packers at No. 28. But there were a number of other pass-rushers who entered the discussion, and for a little bit of depth on that group, we turn to STATS Inc. for an analysis of their pass rush in 2011.
Statistics are less reliable indicators of performance in college because of what can sometimes be disparate levels of competition. But the chart shows how the most notable pass-rushers in this draft stacked up against one another, not only in terms of sacks last season in college, but also in combined knockdowns and hurries.
Some of the analysis is subjective, but as we've always noted, it's still informative as long as the same criteria are applied to each player. The rankings show us that Mercilus was one of the most productive pass-rushers in college football last season. McClellin, on the other hand, trailed the pack.
NFL teams consider college production a secondary tool in evaluating players. If it were primary, it's doubtful the Packers would have drafted Clay Matthews in the 2009 first round. Matthews had 4.5 sacks as a senior at USC.
Again, the NFL draft is rarely this predictable. But if our teams find themselves choosing from among this group of pass-rushers, we at least have a better idea of how productive each player was in his final college season.