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?
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.Akeem Ayers, Football, New York, New York Giants, NFL, NFL Draft, UCLA
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