Former UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers, a potential target for the New York Giants in the upcoming NFL Draft, says he believes he "would be a great fit for that defense."
Ayers gave an exclusive interview to Big Blue View -- spectacular timing when you factor in that he was the choice for the Giants on Thursday in our Big Blue View Community Mock Draft.
"They have a good defense right now, especially known for their good defensive line over the years," Ayers said. "I definitely think I would fit in."
Ayers mentioned the Giants great linebacker tradition led, of course, by Lawrence Taylor and said he would like the opportunity to help the Giants return to that.
Ayers said he has not had contact from the Giants other than talking with team representatives during the NFL Scouting Combine. He was also understandably reluctant to share insight on any other teams he has spoken with thus far in the run-up to the draft.
Ayers described himself as "a do-it-all player" when I asked him for a scouting report.
"Whatever defensive coaches need me to do I can pretty much do it all. Put pressure on the quarterback, cover, play the run. All aspects of the defensive position," Ayers said. "A do-it-all player, all-around linebacker who can do pretty much everything on the defensive side of the ball."
Ayers played outside linebacker in a 4-3 at UCLA, facing several Pac-10 teams that ran pro-style offenses. Many analysts have said he has the flexibility to play outside in a 3-4 scheme as well. Ayers said he has no preference.
"I think I can be an all-around linebacker," Ayers said. "Whether it's the 3-4 outside linebacker or base 4-3 which I've done at UCLA the system doesn't matter. '43 or 34 I feel like I can adapt to both systems."
I asked Ayers about the grind of the pre-draft process NFL teams put draft prospects through.
"It's a once in a lifetime chance that you will be able to go through this whole process. Despite the grind that it is I'm embracing every moment because I realize that you only get to do this once in a lifetime.
"I'm just enjoying the whole draft process. It has its ups and downs, obviously, but at the same time I'm just enjoying it."
With the NFL Lockout ongoing and current NFL players 'suggesting' that top draft prospects turn down the NFL's invitation to attend the draft at Radio City Music Hall Ayers admitted that prospects who are invited to the draft will be in a difficult position.
"Every player dreams to go to New York on draft day and being part of that," Ayers said. "That would be a tough situation to turn down.
"That's a tough thing to be stuck in the middle between not going and going. When you're younger and you watch the draft every year and you see those guys walk on stage, take their jersey and shake the commissioner's hand that definitely is something that you only get to do once in your life."
Ayers called his lackluster performance at the Scouting Combine, where he ran a slow 4.88 40-yard dash, a "bump in the road." I asked him why teams should look past the less than spectacular Combine numbers when considering whether or not to draft him this April.
"When it's all said and done you're looking for a football player. You're not looking for someone who can just run 40 yards in a straight line or someone who's got a good broad jump," Ayers said. "You want somebody who can tackle, who can bend, who can make cuts and just make plays.
"I believe it's pretty much what you can do on the field, your production and your game film. Some guys are just great at doing these Combine drills when it doesn't really translate to what kind of plays you can make on the field.
"You're looking for a football player, not a track runner or a weight lifter."
Ayers' Pro Day is March 29 at UCLA, and he knows that scouts, general managers and coaches will be looking for some improvement in his Combine numbers. Especially in his 40 time.
"The reason I just gave you doesn't mean I'm not going to come out and give it my best," Ayers said. "Definitely going to try to run a better 40 and put up some better numbers. I really try not to think too much about whether or not it's going to hurt me."
If you are a Giants fan hoping Ayers is available to the team with the 19th pick you probably wouldn't mind seeing some better numbers at the Combine. Just not so good that he runs himself right into the top 15 and out of the Giants' reach.
-- Full Big Blue View draft profile on Ayers