Going into today’s season finale against Chicago, Champaign’s Mikel Leshoure has nine touchdowns and 741 yards. Is that good enough to put him on staff writer Bob Asmussen’s list of most successful former Illini in the NFL? Here’s his top six ... and bottom three:
The right stuff
1. Brandon Lloyd, Patriots — Another big year for the ageless wonder, who is second on the team with 73 catches for 902 yards. Signing a three-year deal with New England was a great call and Tom Brady’s team is getting a bargain.
2. Tavon Wilson, Patriots — Surprise second-round pick has proven the scouts correct. He has four interceptions, ranking among league leaders. He is 10th on the team in tackles.
3. Whitney Mercilus, Texans — J.J. Watt gets the pub (and he should), but the rookie is second on team with six sacks. Looks like the team has big plans for the starting outside linebacker.
4. Mikel Leshoure, Lions — Centennial’s finest (right) ranks 22nd in the league in rushing yards and is tied for eighth in TDs. Per carry average of 3.7 is at the lower end among starters.
5. Vontae Davis, Colts — Former Dolphins first-round pick has thrived after trade to Indianapolis. He ranks fourth on the team in tackles and is playing a key role for surprise playoff qualifier.
6. Corey Liuget, Chargers — Starting defensive end is second on the team with seven sacks. Not his fault team underachieves.
The wrong stuff
1. Josh Brent, Cowboys — Before making a terrible decision, one that cost him his friend’s life, Brent was a productive member of a potential playoff team. But it all went away one early morning in a Dallas suburb, when the defensive lineman chose to drive despite having too much alcohol in his body. He has been indicted and faces a long prison term after causing the death of teammate and former Illini Jerry Brown. Sad doesn’t describe it.
2. Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers — The NFL is not big on pouting. When Mendenhall was left off the active roster for a game, he decided not to go to the stadium. And that gave the Steelers a good reason to suspend him for conduct detrimental to the team. If he is playing in the NFL next season, it won’t likely be in Pittsburgh. Injuries have destroyed what could have been a nice career. He has 163 yards and no touchdowns this season.
3. Arrelious Benn, Bucs — The former second-round pick is on injured reserve with shoulder and knee injuries. He has four catches this season. Was doing well on special teams, serving as kick returner, until injuries cost him.