Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA. [Full Big Blue View profile]
Full disclosure time. I knew as soon as I saw Anthony P's pick of J.J. Watt for the San Diego Chargers at 18 that this is the choice I would make for the New York Giants in the first round of our Big Blue View Community Mock Draft. At least, I was nearly certain. I spent part of Wednesday toying with you guys to see how well you had me pegged (you did pretty well in the poll as a plurality -- 37 percent -- had Ayers nailed as my choice). I also spent part of the day in my own draft 'War Room' checking with some folks I trust to see if anyone would make a compelling argument that would talk me out of Ayers and into Colorado offensive tackle Nate Solder.
Obviously, I stayed with my original conviction. I let it slip the other day that I would have taken Florida OG/C Mike Pouncey if he had remained on the board, and that is true. What is also true is that I am perfectly happy that our mock worked out this way.
Before I go any further, a special 'kudos' to 'ross_stephen. He read my mind on this pick when he commented:
When I started profiling draft prospects a couple of months ago Ayers was right at the top of the list of players I figured would be, or should be, targeted at 19 by the Giants. Lots of twists and turns later, including all-star games, the NFL Scouting Combine, reading a gazillion mock drafts, studying Pro Day information and with the site having posted 62 draft profiles thus far, I still feel like Ayers is a perfect fit for the Giants.
I know, I know, believe me I know. Ayers did not have a great Scouting Combine. I know his 40-yard dash time was an unimpressive 4.88. I know, I know, I know. And you know what? I really don't care.
I have been doing these draft profiles for two seasons now, and I have been here at BBV since Feb. of 2007. You guys should know by now that these Combine numbers mean very little to me. I want to know what kind of football player a guy is, not what he looks like doing drills in shorts.
Here is National Football Post draft analyst Wes Bunting talking about Ayers.
He’s the one linebacker this year on tape who had the physical capability of not only destroying opposing pulling linemen in the hole, but showcased the range to make plays in pursuit as well. Plus, for his size he exhibited impressive fluidity and balance when asked to change directions and demonstrated the straight-line speed to close quickly on the ball.
Therefore, should his slow 40-time really hurt his draft stock? In my view… no.
On tape he plays like a guy who runs 4.6 and even when watching him during his Combine workout, directly following his 4.8+ 40, he still looked very fluid for a big guy, was explosive out of his breaks and based off his workout alone, I would still say he could run in the 4.6 range.
Now, overall he will likely fall a bit further than he originally could have gone if he posted a better 40 time. However, much like Florida LB Brandon Spikes last year, who fell into the second round because of his slow 40-time, I could see Ayers end up having the same type of instant impact once he gets to the next level.
"Instant impact." Haven't Giants fans been waiting forever for the team to draft an "instant impact" linebacker? I watch the clip of Ayers below and I see a football player. I see a guy who can make plays sideline to sideline. I see a guy with positional versatility, who can line up on both sides both as a linebacker and with his hand in the dirt. I see a player who runs plenty well enough to drop into coverage. I see a player who seems to make pretty good breaks on the ball and who can work his way through traffic to make a play. Granted, you shouldn't judge a player off one YouTube clip. There is a lot there to like, though.
Most of all, I see a guy who played a true 4-3 outside linebacker position at UCLA -- not a 3-4 'athlete' who is being 'projected' as a 4-3 outside linebacker. Whatever quibbles anyone has with Ayers he is still the top-rated linebacker on the board and a guy who provides the Giants an immediate upgrade at the weakest spot on their defense.
Here is another reason I went with Ayers rather than Solder. Looking at the current Giants' roster, which player do you have more faith in at this point -- Will Beatty or Clint Sintim? I still believe Beatty can emerge as a quality player, possibly filling that left tackle role the Giants drafted him for. Sintim? I haven't seen any evidence of him becoming a play-making linebacker yet.
The Giants have not drafted a linebacker No. 1 since Carl Banks in 1984. Breaking that trend with Ayers, especially the way this mock draft has worked out, seems to me like the right move. Considering all the complaints about Giants' linebacking the past couple of years I will be very interested to see how those of you who disagree with this choice -- and I know there will be many -- frame your arguments.
|19||N.Y. Giants||Akeem Ayers
||The Blood Of Eli
|29||Chicago||You're my boy, Blue|
New York Jets
|48||Oakland||G Fan In England
|52||N.Y. Giants||Ed Valentine|
||The Blood Of Eli|
||You're my boy, Blue|