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Should the New York Giants Draft Akeem Ayers?

March 31st, 2011 at 7:26 AM
By Serena Sanderson

As reported about a week ago, UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers thinks he would fit in New York quite well. He feels he can fit into a 4-3 or a 3-4 system and adapt to either one. His play at UCLA certainly shows that he is a capable linebacker and worth taking in the early rounds, but is he someone the New York Giants should consider with their first pick in the 2011 NFL Draft?

Oregon Ducks quarterback Darron Thomas (L) escapes UCLA Bruins defender Akeem Ayers (R) during the first quarter of their NCAA football game in Eugene, Oregon, October 21, 2010. REUTERS/Steve Dipaola (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

At the Scouting Combine, Ayers ran a 4.8 second 40-yard dash and had a 31 inch vertical leap. Disappointing to say the least, and his draft stock took a hit. At UCLA's Pro Day, Ayers improved his stock a bit by running a 4.7 second 40-yard dash and jumping 34.5 inches on his vertical leap. He's one of those guys that plays well on the field but doesn't test well in drills. Which would be fine, except NFL scouts look at those test times and base a lot of their recommendations on how players do during the combine and pro day events.

After reading this, I went back and looked at some videos of Ayers playing at UCLA. He's definitely got some upside, but he's also got some downside. On the upside, he's a big guy at 6'3, 254 pounds. He's got some serious strength and he uses his length well. He's athletic and versatile and can be used in different areas of the field. He has the ability to grab the ball out of the air when a quarterback misreads a play or throws the ball a tad too low, which allows for flashes of playmaking ability.

On the downside however, he tends to read plays a tad late, allowing players to get behind him. This is when he uses his long arms to grab a guy for a tackle when he's out of position. He also tackles too high allowing players to gain additional yards. I noticed that when he lines up in the middle of the field, he has a hard time getting off the block against the bigger offensive linemen. He lacks the power to shake them in a timely fashion and make plays in the middle. However, back on the upside, when he's lined up on the outside, he gets off the block quickly and rushes the ball well.

Ayers is no doubt a good linebacker and ready for the NFL. He'll need a little tweaking in parts of his game, but he'll be a good addition to whichever team decides to draft him. Personally, I don't think it will be the Giants, regardless that he thinks he might fit there and that he's slated to be drafted between the 13th and 22nd picks. The Giants arguably have more needs on the offensive line than they do at linebacker. They've got two centers and a guard coming off of surgeries who won't have access to team facilities or doctors in their recovery. There are a good 20 plus offensive line players in the draft that are worth looking at in the first round. Mike Pouncey, James Carpenter, Rodney Hudson and Stefen Wisniewski are all good prospects, and the Giants have already scheduled workouts with Will Rackley and Brandon Fusco as we reported yesterday.

In short, the answer to the question "Should the New York Giants Draft Akeem Ayers?" is no. They shouldn't even draft a defensive player with that first pick. Go with the weakest part of the team, the part that needs the most help, and that's the offensive line. Protect Eli Manning and win games. They can always grab a linebacker or defensive tackle in a later round. Who knows, maybe Ayers will still be available when they get to the 52nd pick in the second round. Stranger things have happened in the draft, and if he's still available at that time, Big Blue can draft him them.

Tags: Akeem Ayers, Football, New York, New York Giants, NFL, NFL Draft, UCLA

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20 Responses to “Should the New York Giants Draft Akeem Ayers?”

  1. Matthew Kiernankujo says:

    I tend to agree, Serena. But I wonder whether there’s a sort of cultural problem here.

    The Giants of the last decade haven’t boasted a formidable lineback group. It’s not what we are known for and there’s not a lot of emphasis placed on that position, as an organization. We are the defensive line team; we take projects and players with a lot of upside and a lot of downside at these positions because we have the staff, the institutional know-how and the veteran players who can refine and develop players along the d-line who might not be “NFL ready.”

    This same philosophy is adopted on other teams for the linebackers; look at the Ravens. That team is know for linebackers. Same with the Bears. And the Steelers. They draft guys and make them into good linebackers. It’s their niche.

    So, for us, we tend to favor veteran free agent linebackers who are either plug n play (e.g.- Pierce; Lavar; Mitchell; Boley) over continually drafting and developing guys. We haven’t produced, as an organization, a single linebacker of note in the last 10 years. Maybe more.

    To wrap it up, linebacker teams would take Ayers in a heartbeat! He’s got a boatload of potential and just needs to be placed in the right scheme and developed by the right coaching staff. I don’t think we are that team. He’s going to be a very good player; probably for the Patriots or the Eagles.

    •  demo3356 says:

      There is more too it than that..Linebacker dominant Teams in the NFL are one of 2 things, either 3-4 teams or 4-3 Tampa 2 teams.. We are neither. The big Thumpers and the big Speed Rushers fit nicely into the 3-4 and the guys with mad speed sideline to sideline and coverage abilities fit into the Tampa 2 scheme. Every Single Team with GREAT Linebacker Play the last decade has been a 3-4 (Jets, Steelers, Ravens, Pats, Packers) or the 4-3 Tampa 2 (Bucs, Bears, Vikings, Colts). The 4-3 teams that focus on DLine play and blitzing Schemes (NYG, Philly) dont put as much a premium on their LB position as on the front 4 and secondary. Also the fact that the Giants have had 6 DC’s in the last 10 years has hindered them from developing any really solid LB’s.

      • Matthew Kiernankujo says:

        For sure. I never said my explanation was authoritative. All of what you said is true. I still think linebackers, even in a blitzing scheme like ours, are vital to enforcing the LOS and the belly of the field. Our guys aren’t all that great of that.

  2.  Krow says:

    kujo… Agreed… for whatever reason we’ve completely lost our ability to find and develop LBs. It’s a sad state of affairs for a team that used to pride itself on fierce, game-changing LBs. But it is what it is.

    And as the President of the ‘Draft-a-3-4-DE-and-convert-him-to-LB’ club I can sadly say that I have learned my lesson. I am officially disbanding the club. Goodbye Clint Sintim… goodbye Quentin Groves. It’s over. But only after we draft Aldon Smith.

  3.  demo3356 says:

    This article was picked up By PFT for their Tuesday Morning One Liners..Nice Job Serena!

  4.  demo3356 says:

    I probably am in the minority but I still see Linebacker as a far bigger need than the offensive line. The OLine had 10 different players play last season and as a whole the unit was very solid, where as the Linebacker play was ABYSMAL ALL YEAR! The Giants have several proven OLineman and several more who’ve played solid for them. They have a heaping pile of Monkey crap at the LB position, particularly at the SAM and spent most of last season playing safeties at that spot. To me it is a no brainer to grab Ayers at 19..Just like grabbing Phillips and Nicks were no brainers in their respective drafts. Now if Ayers is gone at 19, then we could see something like last year where Jerry Reese sees a guy with Monster potential sitting there at 19 and picks him regardless of position or need..Also if Ayers is gone at 19 and a blue chip Tackle is there then he probably goes that direction.

    • Matthew Kiernankujo says:

      I’ve agreed with you since day one that linebacker is our biggest need. I think improving our OL is a firm #2 priority. But looking at value and assessing what is the best value at #19 tells me that linebacker isn’t really the best thing. I like Ayers but again, fall back on my previous skepticism about whether we have the ability and desire to develop a guy like him. He’s just a better Sintim; perfect for a 3-4 (which you and I have argued in favor of for years now).

  5. Im one of the few who will defend Sintim I guess. What did Justin Tuck do during his first 2 years pro?

  6. Matthew Kiernankujo says:

    Make no mistake–I want a bone-crunching linebacker like a fat kids wants cake (trust me…I’m a fat kid). I just don’t see Ayers as that guy. So why take him?

  7. Demo – thanks for the heads up! I will checkbook when I get hone tonight. That makes me super excited, glad you guys like the piece, thanks for the responses!

  8.  Samardzija says:

    Yes we should draft a linebacker. But saying we should draft one because “hed be better then what we got” is a pretty faulty statement as we have no idea how these guys will turn up.. And Im pretty sure there will be several better options availeble at #19

  9.  jimDB says:

    Some good insight:
    Scounting Linebackers by Greg Gabriel

    “Greg Gabriel is a veteran of 29 NFL seasons. He started as a part time scout with the Buffalo Bills in 1981. In 1984 he became an area scout for National Football Scouting and then was hired by the New York Giants in January of 1985. Gabriel was with the Giants for 16 seasons and worked with some all time great NFL coaches and personnel people including George Young, Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Dan Reeves, Tom Coughlin and Ernie Accorsi. While in New York, the Giants won three NFC Championships and two Super Bowls (XXI and XXI). Also, 12 first round draft picks came from Gabriel’s main areas of responsibility”

    http://www.nationalfootballpost.com/Scouting-Linebackers.html

  10. Robert Hodgesrlhjr says:

    For quite some time there has been an addage in the NFL about which defensive alignment to play. Simply, if you have 5 good defensive linemen, you play a 43.
    And the inverse being if you have 5 good linebackers, you play a 34.

    Some take it a step further, saying it’s easier to find 4 or 5 good D linemen than it is to find four or five outstanding linebackers. I would have to believe that the latter is more true than the former. However, I do find that teams with consistantly good linebacking crews seem to have a knack for “scouting” those players.

    For quite a few years, the Giants were recognized for being able to find and coach very good defensive backs. Back during the Seahorn era. We all remember the Carson era when it seemed that our sub linebackers could be starters for 70 percent of the other NFL teams. Now we have the (hybrid) Tampa 2.

    Which I think of as the biological #2 (If you get my drift) And along with that there is a supposed lessing of the role of linebacker. But even more than the lack of emphasis on that position within Fewells defense, I really think our scouting staff really has no clue as to what it takes to draft a legit NFL linebacker.

    The guy that drafted Taylor just happened to come across a once in a lifetime player. But the same guy drafted Carson, the same guy drafted the ill fated Loydd. And one after another Kelly, Van Pelt, Reasons, Hunt, Banks, Johnson, Armstead this ball club made some excellent choices at that position.

    The staff knew what to look for, and went out a got those players. This regime just has no idea. Perhaps it’s payroll related. All the cash is tied up in DE’s DT and DB’s. Do they know this or any defense is only as strong as it’s weakest link?

    Maybe just too many holes to fill. Because the team needs legit center, tackle and guard prospects. But you add two quality backers to the Giants defense, and they will dominate the division, and most of football.

    I understand taking OL at 19. But I will not understand Reese not making a solid effort to upgrade the current corps. of linebackers. Jones, Carter or Ayers can offer some needed assistance. It’s my pipe dream that Reese somehow comes up with two backers who can help with ST’s, and be able get some playing time on this defense.

    We are all entitled to our opinions. We are not entitled to our own facts.
    It is my opinion that either Ayres, Carter or Jones will be head and shoulders better than any member of our current linebacker group. It’s not the gospel, but it the way I see it. That opinion is based on what I have been witness to for the last 10 years watching this team. So shoot me.

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