The arrow has been pointing down on Akeem Ayers draft stock after his sub-par performance at the combine, however the Jets are probably still going to have to cross their fingers and toes for the 3-4 OLB to drop to the 30th pick. Nevertheless let’s take a look at the SoCal native.
Ayers jumped on NFL scout’s radars with his exceptional sophomore campaign that saw him rack up 55 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 6 sacks, 4 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, and a partridge in a pear tree. His numbers dipped a bit his Junior year but he recorded more tackles and still had 10 TFL, and 4 sacks.
Ayers is expected to translate fairly well into the NFL, however it is hard to find his true calling card once he reaches the next level. He is a good pass rusher, good run stuffer, good in coverage, and has good versatility. The “great” aspect of his game has yet to be conceptualized, but that does not mean the right NFL coaches won’t be able to get something special out of him.
Ayers had the athleticism and technique to play standing up and with his hand in the dirt while in college; he gets low and likes to dip and rip through the tackle on his way to the quarterback. The best aspect of his pass rush is his initial jump off the ball, which allows him to get into the right position when trying to rush the QB. Where Ayers gets in trouble is finding a counter move if he doesn’t get to the edge before the tackle does. When dropping back in coverage, Ayers has definitely had some success in his college career, picking off six balls and returning two for touchdowns.
However, according to my research, scouts believe he relies on watching the QB’s eyes too much and that he can be fooled by play action. The good news is if the Jets draft him, he will probably have at least a year to work on his pass coverage skills, and would primarily be used in pass rushing situations. One of my favorite things about Akeem Ayers is even though he has the speed to get to the edge, on running situations he is not afraid to use his size, take on blockers, and play physical football; like a Jet. He also shows good pursuit to the ball from what I have seen, and doesn’t seem to take plays off. As far as intangibles go, he has never had any off the field problems, and is a noted hard worker on the practice field and in the weight room.
Like I said, his combine numbers, hurt him last week, (4.8 40, 18 reps of 225, 31’” vertical jump) but it seems that would be a positive from the Jets point of view, as he will most likely fall a bit come draft day; will he fall all the way to number 30? Who knows, but Ayers is definitely someone to keep an eye out for, and will no doubt tempt gun slinging Mike Tannenbaum to trade up if Ayers starts to drop beyond pick 25.