Most of the time when a franchise drafts a player in the first round they are either drafted for need in that position or as the best available player. Most teams' first-round picks are either starting or being rotated in for a significant amount of snaps.
The Texans have become more balanced and have proven to have solid depth in talent by drafting under the strategy of the "best player available." Their latest first-round pick, Whitney Mercilus, a defensive end from Illinois is an outside linebacker in Wade Philips 3-4 scheme, in the same vein as Mario Williams's role in the defense.
However, Mercilus is currently second on the depth chart to Connor Barwin who remains sackless for the season and is in a contract year. The thought process is that Barwin will be given all the snaps of opportunity to earn himself a extension, therefore most fans do not know too much about their first round pick Mercilus other than seeing him contribute on special teams and leading the team in the preseason with three and a half sacks.
In practices and training camp, Mercilus clearly showed the most promise as a pass rusher on the roster. His size and speed make him stand out among all the pass rushers during drills as demonstrated by his superior pass rushing skills by blowing through offensive linemen.
He has the natural speed turn the edge and he has the strength to just bull rush if he wants to. He also displays a repertoire of moves to get around blockers including his patented swim move and he displays great ability to shed blocks.
The last time Mercilus saw extended playing time came in his senior season at Illinois when he led the nation in sacks (16) and forced fumbles (9). The forced fumbles number is what is really impressive because when you review most of his tape he doesn’t go for the easy sack but instead looks to force a fumble and create a turnover.
The only knock against him is the quality of lineman he faced in college and his one-year wonder status. Mercilus posseses all the qualities to become a Defensive Rookie of the Year caliber pass rusher, but to earn the prestigious award he has to have snaps during the season and significant snaps. He is honestly the most gifted natural pass rusher in the 2012 defensive rookie class but he was drafted by a very deep Texans team that currently has nine linebackers on the roster.
Unfortunately, Barwin will be given all the opportunities to earn himself a contract extension so most fans will not see much of Mercilus. Keep an eye out for him sometime towards the end of the season and for sure next season because next year Barwin knows he will probably not be starting over Mercilus much longer.
Like the fans in New York asking for "Tebow Time," fans perhaps should start petitioning for "Mercilus Time" in Houston.
With the Texans taking aim at a Super Bowl title, how much longer will Texans fans want to give the sackless Barwin, snaps while the Texans waste a raw talent such as Mercilus?