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NFL Draft

Forrest Merrill: 2021 NFL Draft Prospect Interview Series

  • The Draft Network
  • April 17, 2021
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Every year in the NFL draft, teams are trying to find late-round prospects who can still make an immediate and sustained impact at the next level. Former Arkansas State defensive lineman Forrest Merrill is one such prospect in this year’s class.

Merrill spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about his JUCO experience, playing at a Group of Five school, and why a team should take a chance on him in the 2021 NFL Draft.

JM: You played at the JUCO level before making your way to Arkansas State. What was your JUCO experience like?

FM: JUCO is a grind. That’s the honest truth. It helped shape me into the man I am today. It was a great experience overall. JUCO teaches you how to be disciplined. It changed me for the better. I met a ton of great people. I have a lot of great memories from those days.

What people say about the JUCO grind and struggle is true, but there’s more to it than that. It was an enlightening experience. It made me a better man. 

JM: What was the biggest difference between JUCO and Division I?

FM: You definitely notice a difference in the overall skill sets of the players. You get some better athletes at the DI level. You encounter some good players and athletes at the JUCO level, but everybody playing DI was the best player at their high school.

DI is the best of the best. That was the biggest difference for me personally.

JM: How would you describe your skill-set?

FM: I’m a well-rounded nose guard. I’m a well-rounded person. It goes beyond football. It’s always weird talking about myself (laughs). I don’t love doing it. I rather let the tape speak for itself.

I’m the type of player that’s very instinctive. I have a high football IQ. I play with a red hot motor. For the lack of a better term, I’m a handful in the middle.

JM: We love that. What do you currently weigh, and can you confirm your height for me as well?

FM: If we’re talking flat-footed, I’m 6-foot-3/4 on the dot. I’m nothing more or less than that. I wish I could say I’m 6-foot-1 but I come in just a hair under that (laughs). I currently weigh 325 pounds. It’s a little less than what I played last season at. My Pro Day is coming up soon and I’ve been working hard. We’re trying to get the best laser times possible.

JM: That’s great. You said it. You’re a handful in the middle. You're a big-time run defender. You take on double teams. What does it take to become a great run defender? It’s work that rarely captures the headlines.

FM: The mentality of how I play the nose guard position, I stop the run first and I react off anything else I see. That’s how I approach it for the most part. I played as a true nose guard this past season. I took on a ton of double teams from guards and centers. Those were the majority of the looks I received. I had to deal with piggyback blocks. As the season progressed, my ability to defend against those kinds of blocks evolved. 

[This] was my first season playing in a true three-front technique. For me, both at JUCO and during my first two years at Arkansas State, we ran a four-man front, a 4-3 look. I played the 2i-technique mostly. We would take zone alignments off the back; meaning if the back was away from me, I would shade on the guard. We call that a 2i. If the back was on me, I would shade off the center and we call that a true shade. It’s all about stopping the fun first while reacting to whatever comes next. I feel like I do a pretty decent job at that. 

JM: You shaved off a couple of pounds for your upcoming Pro Day. Are you going to surprise some people with your results?

FM: I was training at the EXOS facility in Arizona for a few months. We ran through a couple of mock training sessions. It’s only been a few weeks, but I don’t wanna get too in-depth. I don’t wanna spoil what’s coming (laughs). Definitely stay tuned for my Pro Day results. I hope I’m able to shock a few people with how well I move for a big guy.

JM: We can’t wait to see what sort of numbers you put up. You’ve been meeting with teams virtually over the past couple of weeks. How’s that process going for you so far?

FM: Everything is happening virtually as you said. The combine got canceled. We’re living in a virtual world. A lot of it has been introductory stuff. Teams are trying to find out who Forrest Merrill is and what I’m all about. I’ve spoken with a few teams, but they’ve asked me to keep specifics private at this time. I’ve spoken to several teams. I’m going through the process. I’m introducing myself to them. I’ve done some psychological testing for them as well.

JM: That’s great to hear. Somebody is going to call you a “small-school prospect” at some point throughout this process. How do you typically respond to the competition questions?

FM: We are what we are. Arkansas State isn’t a Power Five school, we’re a Group of Five school. We don’t hide from that. We still play very competitive football. I’m a competitor at heart. If you wanna call me a small-school prospect, go watch what I did against the bigger schools. I put some terrific things on tape against Alabama, Georgia, Kansas State, and Memphis. Take your pick. I can compete with the best of the best. I think the film backs that up.

JM: That’s the right way to approach that question. I’ve really appreciated your time today. In closing, why should an NFL team use one of its draft picks on Forrest Merrill?

FM: If you invest in Forrest Merrill, Forrest Merrill will invest in you. I’m going to completely buy into the program. I’m gonna bring some hard-nosed football to the table. I’m 100% physically and emotionally dedicated to this game. I go hard every day. I show up early and leave late. I’m gonna be a sponge. I’m the kind of guy you want on your team. I’m gonna help the team wherever I can. I wanna win a couple of rings along the way.

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