Needs to do a better job wrapping on the play, has the length and power to be a consistent tackler in the run game in the NFL, but at times doesn't take the best of angles and isn't as dominant as his skill set would have you believe. Possesses impressive power at the point of attack when asked to attack downhill, take on blocks — linemen and fullbacks — and when he wants to has the ability to consistently win in the hole.
Showcases good body control and short-area quickness as well when trying to slide defenders who want to get into his legs. Uses his hands better in space when asked to shed on the move. Does a nice job picking his way through the line of scrimmage, extending his arms and can disengage through contact on the edge.
However, when attacking downhill seems content to simply lead with his shoulder and try to overwhelm on contact and win at the point of attack, but doesn't disengage nearly as well. Exhibits decent instincts when asked to play off blocks and find the football. At times he takes himself out of plays, but when he is fully into it he consistently puts himself around the action.
Possesses natural fluidity for a guy his size in space vs. the pass game. Can cleanly open up his hips and run. However, gets a bit too high and leggy when trying to change directions, which takes away from his initial burst toward the football. Isn't overly instinctive either in the pass game, closes quickly on the football after the completion, but will take himself out of plays more so in the pass game.
Keeps his eyes in the backfield, but too often will bite on play fakes and misdirection at the line and will be forced to play from behind. Will work from a three-point stance at times in pass situation. Coils up into his stance well, has a good first step off the football and can consistently threaten the edge. Does a decent job dropping his pad level, gaining leverage and accelerating around the corner, but hasn't quite developed much of a pass-rush arsenal using his hands at this stage.
Impression: An impressive physically gifted athlete. Is long, powerful, has a snap into contact, closes with great burst and can rush the passer and fluidly get out of his breaks. Finds the football better than I thought he would as well, but is raw with his feet in the pass game, doesn't have a great feel for using his hands at this stage and at times his motor will slow and he will look disinterested. However, he can start and play at a high level as a 43 SLB or a 3-4-rush guy and if he wants it bad enough he has the tools to be great."
Read & React: Average instincts and is prone to biting on play-action and taking false steps on the reverse. Possesses rare agility and straight-line speed for the position, typically allowing him to make the play.
Run Defense: Has size, strength and willingness to take on blockers at the point of attack. Seems to enjoy the physicality of the game, showing good upper-body strength and quick, active hands to quickly shed blocks. Unselfish defender that typically maintains gap discipline.
Pass Defense: Can be fooled by play-action but is surprisingly fluid in coverage for a big linebacker. Relies too much on reading the eyes of the quarterback in coverage. Has proven to be a playmaker, but could be fooled by savvy passers at the next level. Good ball skills. Has six career interceptions, returning two for touchdowns.
Tackling: Generally a reliable tackler, leading with his shoulder or getting too high going for the highlight-reel hit and bouncing off the ballcarrier. Can improve as a wrap-up tackler. Can get a bit out of control when pursuing laterally and overrun the play, but is so long and athletic, he's usually able to trip up the ballcarrier to prevent cutback opportunities. Good effort laterally and downfield in pursuit. Good strength for the drag-down tackle. Brings his hips as a tackler, creating explosive hits to force the ball out. Has seven forced fumbles in three seasons.
Pass Rush/Blitz: One of Ayers' better areas. Good burst off the snap as a standup and hand-down rusher. Capable of crossing the face of the tackle with his explosiveness and possesses good flexibility and balance to scrape the corner and close quickly. Relies on his speed to rush the passer, showing little in terms of true pass rush technique, at this point.
Intangibles: Redshirted in 2007. Arrived at UCLA and was known as a prankster, but has matured into a team leader, according to those close to the program. Voted a team captain in 2010. Has played in all 37 games of his career … History major who earned a spot on the Honor Roll in 2007."
Instincts: UCLA lined Ayers up in several different spots. He's played on the strong side and weak side. He's played with a hand in the ground but is mainly used out of a two-point stance. He was mostly used near the line of scrimmage, but was asked at times to drop back in coverage. Reads the play action nicely and knows when to stay at home.
Pass rush: Ayers is still developing as a pass rusher because UCLA didn't call a lot of blitzes for their linebackers. Because of that, he's raw and doesn't have consistent pass rush technique. At times he'll get low around the edge, but needs to do it on a more-frequent basis. Right now, Ayers is a speed rusher with developmental potential.
Pursuit: Gets up to top speed in a hurry and rarely takes false steps. Has the speed to chase down the ball carrier long. reportedly has ran the 40-yard dash in as low as 4.64 seconds. Likes to work around traffic instead of through it.
Quickness: Displays good quickness off the snap and can explode past offensive linemen. Ayers' first step shows he could develop into a pass rusher in the future.
Run defense: Ayers is good against the run when he's lined up at the line of scrimmage and can speed past blockers. When he can, Ayers is good containing the outside rush. But when he has to handle blockers, Ayers has trouble maintaining the edge and will get walled off.
Strength: Ayers has a lot of bulk on his frame, but he needs to get stronger. When playing off the line of scrimmage, he doesn't have enough strength to attack and disengage from linemen. Looks like he can carry at least 10 more pounds of bulk.
Tackling: Is a solid fundamental tackler who wraps up and drives through the ball carrier. Isn't necessarily a devastating hitter. Will sometimes let his technique slip and get too high tackling.
Final word: Most simply look at Ayers' size – 6-foot-4, 256 pounds – and automatically assume he's a perfect fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker. However, he hasn't quite developed as the pass rusher many expected.
That is partly to do with the UCLA defensive scheme. It often required Ayers to drop back in coverage instead of always working upfield. In the long run, that should make him a better all-around player. He's a true three-down linebacker, with size too. But a team looking for pass rush help may have to wait a year or two as Ayers comes along.
Ayers projects as a strong-side linebacker in a 4-3 scheme or an inside linebacker in a 3-4. His play is reminiscent of former Florida State linebacker Lawrence Timmons.
In 12 starts in 2010, Ayers had 68 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, four sacks and two interceptions. He has had 10 sacks over the last two seasons. Was a team captain as a junior."
Ayers could be a beast at the next level.
It’s hard to believe that Ayers was both a defensive end, and a wide receiver in high school. He wasn’t nearly as dominant as a receiver, however, as he only totaled around 25 receptions a season. Ayers didn’t see any time as a true freshman, but he started to make an impact in his sophomore year only to start every game for the Bruins in 2009 and 2010 as a SAM linebacker.
Ayers is quite athletic for a man of his size. Close to 260 pounds, Ayers moves well laterally, and is excellent in pursuit of the ball carrier. He is a smart player that is good at diagnosing the play and reacting quickly. He does well maintaining outside contain, staying home and not getting caught out of position. Ayers is quite versatile. He lined up as a defensive end, inside linebacker, outside pass rusher, and strong side line backer in a 4-3 base. When he does pass rush, he gets up field in a hurry and comes down the line strong. Ayers excels in coverage, doing a nice job staying in his zone and also is great in shoving receivers off of their routes inside five yards.
Despite Ayers’ size, he lacks good strength. He struggles to get off of blockers, and while he doesn’t get pushed back, he doesn’t disengage and make the tackle. Too often Ayers is caught trying to make an arm tackle. He’s not a great wrap up tackler in the open field as he fails to break down and use fundamentals. He doesn’t have great change of direction when playing in space as well, and has been known to over pursue every once in awhile.
Ayers could go in the late first round to a team like New Orleans, Seattle, Atlanta, or New England. However, he could fall into the middle of the second round, where it’s most likely he’ll be scooped up in a hurry. Despite not showing a great pass rush, he still fits as a project in the 3-4 defense as a utility outside linebacker who plays more in coverage but rushes the passer at times. Arizona, Tennessee, Washington, Houston, Minnesota, Detroit and St. Louis will take a hard look at Ayers in the second round, and I have a hard time believing all of those teams will pass on a natural talent like him in the middle of the second round.
NFL Comparison: Mike Vrabel "
Positive: Forceful three-down linebacker with a complete game. Breaks down well, quickly gets his hands up, and holds his ground against blocks. Immediately changes direction or alters his angle of attack, displays speed moving laterally and has ability in pursuit. Plays with good quickness, can turn it on a single step and makes a lot of athletic plays on the field. Remains disciplined with assignments and shows good awareness and playing balance. Occasionally lines up in a three-point stance, playing with good pad level and displays speed off the edge. Fluid moving in reverse, shows skill in coverage, and even has the ability to play over the slot receiver.
Negative: Does not play with a sense of urgency. Possesses just a marginal burst. Occasionally gets caught up in traffic. Timed poorly at the combine.
Analysis: Ayers has been very productive the past three seasons defending the run, rushing the passer, and playing in coverage. He lacks classic speed for an outside linebacker but has all the skills necessary to start in a variety of defensive systems."
Negatives: Is not particularly fast, has been clocked in the high 4.5-low 4.7 range in the 40, but that is to be expected for his size... Takes a little too long to diagnose plays, which allows ball carriers to get extra yardage on his side of the field... Has not displayed much ability to get to the quarterback, does have 10 career sacks, but will not be much of a pass rusher in the NFL if he does not develop more pass-rushing moves... Will not be able to run with most tight ends and running backs in coverage, needs to improve footwork and hip-turn technique in order to play man coverage... Not particularly intense or explosive, plays under control, but lacks elite aggressiveness at position... Production seems to decline in some big games (10 total tackles against California and Stanford combined this year)... Has the potential to be a very solid linebacker in the NFL, but lacks extreme upside in any one particular facet of the game"
A pass-rusher from the same high school that produced Vikings DL Kenechi Udeze from USC, Ayers had an outstanding junior season (9-3 record), recording 116 tackles and 23 sacks, including one game with five and another with four, and had a sack in each of Verbum Dei's 12 games.
He also had five recovered fumbles and on offense had 19 catches for 441 yards and 5 touchdowns.
2008 -40 tackles, 12 Assisted, 5 TFL, 4 sacks, 3 Passes Defensed, 1 Forced Fumble, and 1 Blocked Punt.
2009–73 tackles, 21 assisted, 12.5 TFL, 5 sacks, 3 Passes Defensed, 4 INTs, 2 TDs, 2 Forced Fumbles, 1 Fumble Recovery, 1 TD.
2010: Ayers started all 12 games in 2010. He was fourth on the team with 68 tackles, first (tied) with 4.0 sacks, second with 10.0 tackles for loss and second (tied) with two interceptions. Ayers has been a beast for the Bruins and is clearly the best player on the roster.
Strengths: He is very quick and tracks down ball carriers like a bloodhound. Is very alert and always around the football. Ayers is active with tremendous motor with good size for 3-4, but he could potentially add 15 pounds, maintain his speed and play 4-3 DE. He is a fluid and agile athlete
Weaknesses: He could still improve at shedding blocks, wrapping up when he tackles, he'll need to keep improving in pass drops and add to his arsenal of pass rush moves.
Projection: I think Ayers will go in the middle or 2nd half of the upcoming, he is very similar to John Abraham who went to the Jets in 200 with Pick #13 he may not go quite as early but he could be as good or even better."
Ayers needed to build off of his late season success in 2009 because he was the only returning starter in the front seven heading into the 2010 campaign. Not surprisingly Ayers has had to do a lot for the Bruins' defense this season. Through seven games he has 41 tackles and 3.0 sacks. He also leads the team with 7.0 tackles-for-loss and two interceptions. On such a young defense, Ayers has held things together for the most part and deserves a ton of credit for holding the relatively explosive offenses of Houston and Texas to 13 and 12 points, respectively.
Ayers is big and fast and smart. He can line up at an end spot just to mix things up or attack the quarterback from his usual outside linebacker position. With his speed and instincts, Ayers is even versatile enough to play in the middle of the linebacker corps. If he does leave UCLA a year early, he should be a top 15 pick."
The UCLA linebacker has the bulk, length, frame and athletic ability that NFL decision makers dream of. Standing at 6’4” and 250-plus pounds with a frame that can add more weight, Ayers moves around the field with a fleetness of foot that you’d expect from a much smaller player. The first thing that stands out about his game tape is that he is an absolute turnover machine from his strong side linebacker position—he creates fumbles and interceptions at a startling rate. In 2009, more often than not those picks turned into touchdowns—he returned three of his four interceptions for scores as a sophomore. When asked to rush the passer (six sacks in 2009) Ayers shows very good burst coming off the line of scrimmage. He turns the corner with ease and shows a decent understanding of how to use his arms to keep offensive linemen from getting a grip. NFL teams that run multiple formations and demand positional versatility will fall head over heels for this Bruin. However, if he’s going to succeed as a linebacker at the NFL level, he needs to get more comfortable playing the run on a number of levels. First and foremost, his tackling must improve. That versatility can be a curse as much as it is a blessing—did someone say jack-of-all-trades, master of none? We value a player who can contribute in every aspect of the game and believe Ayers can be a first round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft should he decide to declare."
I've got a bad feeling about Akeem Ayers.
He certainly has the size and frame to excel at Flanker ~ OutSide LineBacker to you Earthlings!! ~ and NFP's Wes Bunting, for whom I have great admiration, says that "he's got the tools to be great." That's a level of lofty praise you just don't see too much of, coming from Wes Bunting, which gives it particularly potent weight.
But I don't see it. Akeem Ayers seems way too slow to Rush the Passer effectively, and his repertoire of moves is non existent. Over the last month or so, there's been increasing talk of moving him inside to Mid Fielder ~ InSide LineBacker, Earthings!! ~ where his superior skills at navigating through traffic, and both taking on and throwing off Blocks might be a better fit. However, even there, I don't see the Agility or the Lateral Velocity to be effective.
Above all, however, Akeem Ayers seems to come up short in the areas that I place the heaviest emphasis on: Instincts, Diagnostic skills, and Processing Speed.
And I do believe that the combination will prove fatal.
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