It’s draft season and whether it’s that early-round stud or that late-round gem, everyone is searching for the next star.
Arkansas State Wolves (2018-2020)
- Games Played 26, Games Started 24, Tackles 106, Solos 41, TFLs 16, Sacks 8, Forced Fumbles 2, Fumble Recoveries 1, PBUs 2
NE Oklahoma A & M Norsemen (2017)
- Games Played 9, Games Started 9, Tackles 30, Solos 19, TFLs 5.5, 8 QB hits, and one forced fumble
Forrest Merrill was born on August 15th, 1996 in Willard Missouri. He played for Willard High School where he was a two-star recruit. As a senior, Merrill earned all-state honors as a defensive lineman and recorded 86 tackles, 20 TFLs, and four sacks. His college career would get off to a bit of a rocky start as he would sign with Missouri State, but after one season he would transfer as he just didn’t feel that was the right fit for him.
His next landing spot would take him to NE Oklahoma A & M, where he would register 30 tackles, 19 solos, 5.5 tackles for a loss, and one forced fumble. Merrill would help lead the Norsemen to a Southwest Junior College Football Conference championship.
Merrill would once again transfer and this time would settle on Arkansas State as his new home. In his first season (2018) with the Wolves, Merrill would play in all 13 games, starting twelve of those games. He would record 58 tackles, 22 solos, 7.5 TFLs, 4.5 sacks, one forced fumble, and one PBU, which would earn him 2nd team All-Sun Belt Conference honors.
In 2019, Merrill would play in only six games, as he suffered a season-ending injury, but would register 21 tackles, six solos, 4.5 TFLs, 3.5 sacks, and one PBU. In his last season of college football, he would finish with 27 tackles, 13 solos, four TFLs, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery.
Merrill is one of the most underrated defensive linemen in this draft class. A big strong-run stopper that commands double teams and forces offenses to know where he is and get him blocked. Merrill is an old-school throwback type nose tackle, who is tough, relentless, and plays with a consistently high motor. He wins with leverage and power and understands how to utilize his strengths to his advantage.
A big man, that is surprisingly athletic and has a really good burst off the snap. Merrill does a very good job of consistently anchoring and winning leverage at the point of attack. He has very good handwork usage and for his size, he is surprisingly light on his feet allowing him to create openings along the line of scrimmage, where he can minimize the pocket.
Merrill has heavy hands with a lot of pop, that he can stun or shock o-lineman off the snap. He also does a terrific job of keeping a low center of gravity and balance, which allows him to win leverage battles. All this combined, allow Merrill to command routine double teams and open up things for teammates.
For all there is to like about Merrill, there are a few deficiencies to his game. The first thing that will be brought up is the level of competition that he has played against. He has an opportunity to squash some of those concerns in all-star games (Senior Bowl, etc) and pro-day.
Merrill despite being a disruptive force up front, doesn’t offer a lot of pass rush from the interior. Then there is the issue of will Merrill be able to stay on the field for all three downs? He has to show he can be an effective option on the money down (3rd down), which he hasn’t really done so far. Merrill doesn’t offer a lot of value as an outside edge or 5-technique option.
Merrill is one of the top one 1-technique players in the draft and can play the 3-technique just as effectively. He’s a disruptive interior force that can collapse pockets and fill running lanes, which forces offenses to go to plan B on a routine basis.
Merrill’s game is based on power, strength, leverage, and his knowledge of how and where to move to create advantages for himself and others. He has one of the highest floor values in this draft class and will instantly improve any team’s interior defensive line unit. Merrill has some things to work on, but nothing that can’t be corrected.
With Merrill being an interior defensive lineman his fantasy value is really best suited for those that play in position-specific leagues. It’s in those types of leagues where he will make the most impact scoring-wise, especially those with defensive tackle scoring premiums in place. I see him being a decent fantasy option with a safe floor, that fantasy managers can depend on for their fantasy rosters. Merrill should provide a decent amount of tackles and TFLs, but won’t offer much in the way of sacks.
Fantasy Draft Projection: UDFA
Fantasy Scoring Projection: DL3
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