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NFL Draft 2012: Lions Host D-End Whitney Mercilus

The Detroit Lions on Monday hosted Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus for a pre-draft visit, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Mercilus, 6-3 and 260 pounds, led the nation in sacks last season with 16. And even though the Lions spent their first round pick on a defensive lineman last season by drafting Nick Fairley at No. 13, Dave Birkett of the Free Press contends that the defensive line could use some bolstering:

The Lions return all nine contributors from a defensive line that accounted for 35 of their 41 sacks last year, but have several questions at the position long term.

Cliff Avril, who led the team with 11 sacks and six forced fumbles, has not signed his one-year franchise tender and could be a free agent again next season. Kyle Vanden Bosch, coming off an eight-sack season, turns 34 this fall and is two years removed from neck surgery. And backup Lawrence Jackson is entering the final year of his rookie contract.

Mercilus could well be available to the Lions at No. 23. A recent SB Nation mock draft, for one, had Mercilus hanging around until No. 27.

Not everyone, though, thinks Mercilus will fall that far. As of Tuesday, three of four NFL.com analysts thought Mercilus will be off the board already.

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