BIOGRAPHY: Two-year starter who totaled 78/17/7 as a junior after 46/10/3 the previous year.
POSITIVES: Athletic defender who is a disruptive force all over the field. Plays with good pad level, rarely off his feet, and quickly changes direction. Fast off the edge, displays an array of moves getting off blocks, and makes plays in pursuit. Possesses outstanding first-step quickness, consistently doubled by opponents, and tough to handle. Solid athlete who can drop off the line on zone blitzes and play in space. Fluid moving in all directions of the field.
NEGATIVES: Lacks bulk and strength at the point and struggles getting off blocks once engaged. Can be a liability in run defense if facing large blockers. Underwent surgery to repair a sports hernia after the combine and never ran for scouts prior to the draft.
ANALYSIS: Merling has been an impact player at Clemson the past two seasons and he offers outstanding upside potential at the next level. He can be used as a pass-rushing end in a conventional system and he also offers possibilities standing up over tackle in a 3-4 alignment. He needs time to add bulk and improve his strength and his recovery time from the recent sport hernia surgery is sure to scare some teams off. Yet Merling's ability to make plays in the backfield will get him on the field as a rookie in the NFL.