Position Ranking: #1
Strengths: Played both defensive end and outside linebacker at UCLA; took an equal amount of snaps at both spots. Has good measurables and his overall skill set translates well to a 3-4 OLB, 4-3 OLB, and 4-3 end. His wide and solid frame allows for additional weight if necessary. Good initial quickness off the snap to win the corner in his pass rush from the end position; bends the edge and flattens down smoothly to close- a consistent threat to get to the quarterback. Shows the strength to jolt tight ends off the snap and contain the edge in run support.
A 3-down linebacker who played a lot of underneath coverage; gets good depth in his drop and keeps focused on his read & keys. Reacts quickly to the short throws in front of him. Shows the athleticism, size, and hips to cover tight ends down the seam at the next level. Physical player who steps up to fill the gap in run support and takes on blockers. Good speed and can get to the sideline from between the hashes. Physical, wrap-up tackler. Disciplined and stays true to his assignment; knows when to release in pursuit of ball carrier and when to stay home. Played both the weak and strongside linebacker spot.
Needs Improvement: Instincts are only adequate in run support. Slow to pick-up the misdirection and will be caught on his heels against play-action. Loses technique and tries too often to muscle through blocks or traffic. Let’s blockers get inside of him while his eyes are still on the backfield; doesn’t disengage from blocks with quickness and consistent technique. Pursuit angles are inconsistent, can misjudge and be late to the opposite side when a clear lane was available.
Bottom Line: Akeem Ayers brings versatility to a team along the front seven and has a complete skill set as an outside linebacker or defensive end. His height, length, and suddenness off the edge make him a legitimate 4-3 end (has frame to add weight). While his coverage ability, quickness, strength and experience allow him to be highly effective as an outside linebacker in either a 3-4 or 4-3 alignment. Ayers may not necessarily be the most dynamic of the OLB prospects, but he’s definitely the most complete. It shouldn’t take him long to acclimate to any pro scheme and he should be an early, productive starter in the NFL.
Draft Projection: 1st Round.