Akeem Ayers is a talented redshirt junior linebacker who has the versatility to play multiple positions. While he doesn’t excel in one single area, he is a solid all-around player. He has limited upside but with the potential to be a nice contributor right away in the league. His NFL combine numbers were a little weak (4.80 40-yard dash, 18 bench press reps, 7.49 three-cone drill) which confirms what is shown on field. He lacks true explosion as a pass rusher, lacks instincts in the running game, and needs to physically get stronger at his size. But after all that, what Ayers does well is make plays. He can get to the quarterback, cover well, and his versatility makes him an attractive player. His best fit is probably as a SAM linebacker in a 3-4 defense, but don’t discount 4-3 teams looking at him as well. Ayers is entrenched as a 1st round pick although he may slide a bit on draft day.
Ayers is an average tackler who doesn’t dominate for a player his size. He is a bit of an arm tackler which causes too many missed tackles. He is slow to read plays, which shows he doesn’t have natural instinct. He makes up for that with raw athleticism and plays the game in a smart way. He uses his long arms to be able to shed blocks quite well, and does a relatively good job both in pursuit and contain. Ayers is more quick than fast and does most of his work within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. He takes good angles to the ball and once again, at the end of the day, makes a good number of plays with his athleticism.
Ayers is an above average cover linebacker who does his best work in a zone scheme. He is quick into his drops and gets good depth when playing zone. He gets his hands on a good number of passes, and also has an innate ability to make interceptions for a player his size (6 career interceptions with 2 returned for touchdowns). He is not overly fast so he may struggle in the NFL against quicker players. In man coverage he uses his long arms to his advantage jamming smaller players at the line. Ayers seems to understand the passing game better than the running game and doesn’t look lost quite as often in coverage.
While he doesn’t flash as a dominant edge-rusher, Ayers does have the ability to get to the quarterback, as evidence by his 14 career sacks. Definitely not a technician, Ayers uses his athleticism to get to the quarterback more than any particular pass rush move. Takes on blocks well and also has good use of his hands when engaged. He’s not particularly strong at the point of attack which needs to improve considering his ideal size. His motor can be a little inconsistent at times, which is not unusual for a young player.
Ayers tackling should improve with time considering his long athletic frame. He is not a horrible tackler by any means, but doesn’t dominate like it appears he should. He only forced 2 fumbles in his entire college career. He tends to drag players down instead of lifting and driving, and waits for ball carriers to come to him instead of being the aggressor. He uses his quickness to make plays from sideline-to-sideline however, and shows a nice ability to get into the backfield (29.5 career tackles for loss).
Ayers is not a naturally instinctive player so he will need to work extra hard in the film room when playing in the NFL. He takes too long to diagnose plays in the run game, but seems a little more comfortable when it comes to pass coverage which is odd considering he has played near the line since high school. Thinks too much on the field. Ayers is best suited when allowed to play free and let his athleticism take over.
On film Ayers is a bit more agile than his average combine number may lead someone to believe. He plays long and fluid and looks like a natural athlete. He has fluid hips, great body control and great balance. He look extremely comfortable running and turning which is unique for a player his size.
Ayers played defensive end, linebacker and wide receiver at Verbum Dei High School in Los Angeles. In week 4 of the 2010 season Ayers was named the Lott IMPACT Player of the Week. The significance of the award being that it equally recognizes athletic performance as well as personal character and attributes.
Ayers played in 37 games in his college career.
History major; made the Director’s Honor Roll in 2007.
Awards & Honors
2010: Earned second-team All-America honors from the Walter Camp Foundation; finished third in the Butkus Award voting; Named third-team All-American by the Associated Press; First-team All-Pac-10 selection; Lott IMPACT Trophy quarterfinalist (for the entire year); Defensive co-winner of UCLA’s Henry R. “Red” Sanders Most Valuable Player Award.
2009: Named honorable mention All-Pac-10; Named first-team sophomore All-American by collegefootballnews.com; Named co-defensive winner of UCLA’s Captain Don Brown Memorial Award for Most Improved Player.
2008: Named honorable mention All-Pac-10; Named defensive co-winner of UCLA’s John Boncheff, Jr. Memorial Award for Rookie of the Year.
Prospect Video Clips
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