PIcks give Illini five NFL first rounders in last five season


Former Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus was considered a first-round NFL pick. He was surprisingly joined there by wide receiver A.J. Jenkins Thursday.   The Houston Texans took Mercilus with the 26th pick just before the San Francisco 49ers went with Jenkins at 30th to give the Illini two first rounders in the same draft for the first time since 1996, when Kevin Hardy and Simeon Rice went with the second and third selections, respectively. The Illini had five first-rounders in the last five seasons.   "I got nervous when I went below slot 19,'' Mercilus said. "I got nervous thinking where I'll land, hoping not to drop out of the first round. "It's amazing how (A.J.) has taken his draft stock to a whole new level. I'm glad he went in the first round.''   An unknown before leading the nation with 16 sacks and nine forced fumbles on his way to earning the Hendricks Award as the top college defensive end last season, Mercilus was the third defensive end chosen. Jenkins was considered a likely second rounder after moving up since the combine. He joined a receiving corps that includes Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss and Mario Manningham.   The call from his agent with the news of a first-round pick caught Jenkins off guard. He was in the bathroom.   "I was watching the draft like any typical dude, chilling with the family,'' Jenkins said. "All of a sudden, I got a phone call. It's a great feeling.''   Also Thursday, the Illini landed a commitment from four-star Bolingbrook junior quarterback Aaron Bailey, a key move in coach Tim Beckman's first full year on the job.   John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @JohnSupinie.