Instincts/Recognition: Not a very instinctual athlete when lining up at inside linebacker. Tends to think a lot on the field, which causes some timid reactions at times. Not the type of linebacker to read a play and attack it downhill consistently. Often waits for ball carriers to come to him, instead of going to the ball carrier. When lining up on the line at outside linebacker and defensive end, he does an excellent good job of recognizing the run. Isn’t fooled often on delays or misdirection plays. Recognizes route combination’s when playing in zone coverage, but is sometimes late to react to play actions.
Strength/Toughness: Ayers is a tall and thickly built kid who isn’t overly powerful in his upper body. Despite that, he is a powerful tackler. He does a nice job at lifting and driving his hips through the tackle. However, he needs to become more consistent at wrapping up ball carriers. At times he becomes enamored with “the big hits” and uses his shoulder too often. He takes on lead blockers and lineman extremely well, and is never afraid to stick his nose in the action.
Range vs. Run: Is a natural athlete with the gift of speed and quickness. He uses his speed to move from sideline-to-sideline with ease. When lining up at outside linebacker, he does a great job at stringing plays out and forcing ball carriers to either go out of bounds or cut back into traffic. His long arms allow him to shed blocks effortlessly. He keeps them extended when blockers attempt to engage and has proper hand placement. Scraps the line of scrimmage well, even with linemen attached to him. Does well at wading through traffic and finding ball carriers. Ayers is exceptional at keeping containment and crashing down the line when plays are ran opposite of him.
Pass Rush: Doesn’t have a bevy of pass rushing moves, but has the explosiveness get to the quarterback. Long arms help him fend off offensive tackles and execute moves. He uses his speed and suddenness quite nicely when rushing the passer. Must learn to use his hands a little bit more at the next level. Also, he must learn how to counter offensive linemen. Doesn’t possess a ton of power to man handle linemen, but knows how to translate his speed into functional power. He shows a solid bull rush and spin move. In addition, he excels at getting his hands up to deflect passes. In fact, in 2009 he intercepted two passes that he deflected at the line of scrimmage. Both were returned for touchdowns.
3rd Down Capabilities: Ayers is very versatile. Has experience playing defensive end, outside linebacker, and inside linebacker. At any given point he can line up at one of the above mentioned positions. On third downs he can drop into underneath zone coverage, rush the passer, or man up on a tight end. He does a good job with underneath coverage, but man coverage can be iffy at times.
Intangibles: Multi-year team captain. 2010 3rd Team AP All-American.
Overall Stock: Akeem Ayers is one of the more versatile players in the 2011 draft. Unlike most college linebackers, Ayers produces numbers in every stat box. In his sophomore and junior year, he racked up a total of 141 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, 9 sacks, 6 interceptions, and 4 forced fumbles. So as you can see, he is definitely a playmaker. There are still questions about what position he’ll play in the NFL. He has the tools to play any one of the four linebacker positions in a 3-4. I tend to think he is best suited as a Sam Outside Linebacker. When he lines up as an outside linebacker, his athletic abilities really shine. He becomes more dynamic and tends to be more decisive. If he does get placed on the inside, he’ll need to learn to use his speed at all times. Become more physical at the point of attack, and be more aggressive. Ayers grades out high, and one of the fifth-teen 3-4 teams will take him In the 1st round.
NFL Comparison: Shaun Phillips