Akeem Ayers is one of the most dynamic players in this year’s draft, as he plays with a nice blend of strength, speed, and instincts. He is one of those special players who has a knack for making the big play in big moments.
Coming into his junior year, Ayers was thought to be somewhat of a liability against the run in traffic and was seen as slightly undersized but with hard work in the offseason he added overall strength, particularly in his lower half.
Ayers is seen as much more of a complete player now that he has been able to combine his added size with his natural athletic ability. He is a versatile player who can set the edge and rush the passer from the weakside in a 3-4 or drop back into coverage where he has shown improved footwork and change of direction in space. Ayers plays with sound technique against the run and uses his length to keep blockers away from his body.
With his added strength he has the ability to move lead blockers out of his way and can anchor against anyone at the point. He has active feet in traffic and does not take false steps in pursuit of the ballcarrier. As a pass rusher he anticipates well and explodes off the line and can dip his body to collapse the edge when engaging the quarterback. When disengaged his speed allows him to consistently run down ballcarriers scraping down the line and quarterbacks rarely escape his pursuit. He is a sideline to sideline player and takes excellent angles to the ball.
He possesses natural instincts in coverage and seems to have a better feel for where receivers are crossing in zone coverage than he did a year ago. Ayers has some bait and close ability in coverage and can dislodge the ball from the receiver if he’s not there in time to make a play on the ball in the air. He is going to be able to help a defense in many facets and he should only get better.
Scouts love the steady year to year improvement and reports from his college coaches indicate he has a strong work ethic and desire to maximize his potential. Ayers is an instant impact player who should see the field right away and likely won’t make it past the middle of the first round.