Positives: Good size and athleticism for a linebacker. Has a good first step as a pass rusher and flashes a spin move when rushing the passer. He has a good feel for passing lanes and does a good job of getting his hands up to deflect passes when rushing the passer, and as a sophomore he even caught passes at the line of scrimmage for interceptions. He has good ball skills and hands for the interception, and he also seemed to be a good tackler in my opinion. He breaks down well in the open field, wraps up effectively and drives through the tackle pretty regularly. He also shows some pop as a hitter. He gets pretty deep in his drops when he does drop into pass coverage, and closes on the ball well once he sees where it is going. He flows well through “trash” and avoids blocks well to get to the ball carrier, and shows that he will pursue from the backside to make the play.
Negatives: Ayers really doesn’t do anything that well. He has a good first step, but he doesn’t have good edge speed and I didn’t see him beat an offensive tackle off the edge with a straight speed rush in a single game that I watched of him. He just doesn’t have the pure speed to get the edge, and that means he won’t be flying around the edge in the NFL as a pass rusher. That severely limits his potential as a pass rusher, especially since he is touted as an all-around good/very good linebacker. He also struggles mightily to shed blocks both as a pass rusher and as a run defender. I saw him shed one block and it was a poor block in the games that I watched, otherwise he was either driven off the ball or engulfed. He usually tries to avoid blockers to get to the ball carrier, but once he is engaged by a quality block he is usually taken out of the play. He also has a very limited pass rush repertoire and his technique needs development. His hand usage really does need a lot of work. He doesn’t look especially comfortable in pass coverage either, and he will be too aggressive and bite on double moves because he tries to guess where the QB is going to throw the ball too much. Overall he just does not have good instincts as a football player in my opinion, and he doesn’t read and react well, which hurts him a lot as a linebacker. His motor is also inconsistent and it will run hot and cold at times.
Overall: Ayers has a lot of hype and I could barely listen to the announcers during the games he was playing in because they would absolutely not stop raving about how good he was when I was rather unimpressed with him. He doesn’t rush the passer well and I don’t think he will be an effective pass rusher in the NFL, he can’t get off blocks in the run game and even though he’s a good tackler I don’t think he will be particularly effective as a run defender even if he improves his hand usage because of his lack of quality instincts. He also doesn’t look like a very good coverage linebacker, and that really makes him an average prospect. I think he will have to be a 3-4 ILB or a 4-3 SLB in the NFL, but no position is really perfect for him because of his lack of instincts and his problems shedding blocks. I think he could have some success as a 3-4 ILB if he has a big, strong defensive line in front of him that can occupy blockers and let him flow to the ball, but in my opinion his absolute ceiling in the NFL is a solid starter, and his floor is a guy who is a career special teamer that really never fit in anywhere on defense.
Projection: 3rd/4th round. I think he will probably go much higher than this, but I wouldn’t take him until the 3rd round and even then I’d have to think about it. I just don’t see the upside with him. He won’t ever be a dynamic pass rusher, he won’t ever be a dynamic run defender, and he probably won’t ever be a very good coverage linebacker. At best he will be a solid starting linebacker, and that means he should be a mid-round pick. He may very well end up being a 1st round pick, but I think he will be a bust if that is where he is drafted.
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite
Point of Attack: 2.0
Pass Rush: 3.0