FLORHAM PARK, NJ — As we enter the fifth and, unfortunately, final installment of the Official JetsInsider.com’s “Meet the Prospects” segment, those with a keen eye may be noticing a trend with these player profiles. Yes, if you indeed have that keen eye I mentioned, all the potential picks to be plucked with the Jets 30th overall selection are defensive players. As if there would be any other option for a Rex Ryan coached team. The interesting part is, however, that under Ryan the Jets have held a top-3 defensive ranking the last two reasons. But piggy-backing on the well-noted remarks by ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer, perhaps the Jets defense is more “smoke and mirrors” than defensive player dominance. After all, the Jets did only send one player (Darrelle Revis) to the Pro Bowl in 2010.
But with an aging defense and an upcoming offense that is primed to gel in 2011, G.M. Mike Tannenbaum, or Trader Mike as he’s been affectionately nicknamed by the Gang Green faithful, and the rest of his staff see defense as the cornerstone of a Super Bowl-caliber team. And while safety is a rising issue with the uncertainty regarding Jim Leonhard, OLB/DE continues to be a power position for Ryan’s aggressive defense. Having already featured two potential OLB/DE, I will end this segment that I have grown quite fond of with yet another one. Akeem Ayers, teammate of already-featured Rahim Moore from UCLA, built a name for himself as a potential mid-to-late first round selection after posting a superb 2009 season, but like Moore, he saw a decrease in production in 2010. Add in a less-than-stellar showing at Indianapolis in the NFL Combine (which doesn’t prove everything, just ask Vernon Gholston) and there is even greater importance hanging on his March 29th Pro Day.
Akeem Ayers, OLB/DE, UCLA:
- CLASS STANDING: Junior
- HEIGHT: 6-4
- WEIGHT: 255
- NFL COMPARISON: Mike Vrabel, Kansas City Chiefs
Collegiate Career: Akeem Ayers 2010 Highlights UCLA
- 2010 — Season captain; Started all 12 games; Fourth on the team with 68 tackles, first (tied) with 4.0 sacks, second with 10.0 tackles for loss and second (tied) with two interceptions; Earned second-team All-America honors from the Walter Camp Football Foundation; One of five Butkus Award finalists (he finished third in voting); Third-team Associated Press All-American; First-team All-Pac-10 selection; Named defensive co-winner of UCLA’s Henry R. “Red” Sanders for Most Valuable Player.
- 2009 — Started all 13 games at strongside linebacker; Second on the team with 6.0 sacks (T-10th in Pac-10) and 14.5 tackles for loss (5th in Pac-10); Named honorable mention All-Pac-10; First-team Sophomore All-America selection by CollegeFootballNews.com; Tied a UCLA season record with two touchdowns on interceptions and scored three defensive touchdowns in all (one fumble return); Led the team with four forced fumbles (T-3rd in Pac-10); In his final four games of the season, Ayers made 30 tackles, including 4.0 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss, three interceptions (returned one for a touchdown) and returned a fumble for a touchdown.
- 2008 — Appeared in 12 games with three starts at strongside linebacker (BYU, Oregon, Oregon St.); Named to Rivals.com Pac-10 All-Freshman team; Earned honorable mention All-Pac-10 from the league’s coaches; Was the defensive co-winner of UCLA’s John Boncheff, Jr. Memorial Award for Rookie of the Year; Tied for 19th in the Pac-10 in sacks per game (0.3).
- 2007 — Redshirted his true freshmen year.
- Versatility – He can line up at an end spot just to mix things up or attack the quarterback from his usual outside linebacker position. With his instincts, Ayers is even versatile enough to play in the middle of the linebacker corps.
- Has a nose for the ball carrier like a bloodhound. Always around the ball, alert and tracks down the ball extremely well.
- Not just a pass-rusher. His instincts and ability to read the quarterback in coverage allows him to take chances and make a play on the ball. Aside from his sub-par 40 time, his game speed allows him to line up opposite slot receivers and drop back in zone coverage.
- Tends to throws his body at the ball carrier instead of driving through them causing a few missed tackles in the process.
- Has shown problems shedding blockers with frequency. That’s fixable, however, as his frame could easily add 15-20 pounds — making it easier to shed blockers in the NFL.
- Has been known to take himself out of plays because of his speed, leading to an over pursuit on the ball carrier.
Why the Jets?:
- If there is something Ryan loves in a defensive players, it’s versatility. What helped the Jets defeat the Patriots in the divisional round of the playoffs last year was masking schemes; blitzing while showing coverage and dropping back when showing blitz. Ayers has the ability to do both, whether it be on the line, on the edge or from the inside.
- He’s a turnover over machine. Watch his highlights (posted above) and you’ll see for yourself. The Jets are desperate for a player who can create a timely turnover, which was an issue of concern last year. Whether its forcing fumbles or intercepting passes, Ayers can get it done.
In his own words:
- “My strength is rushing the passer. I’m like a bull on the field…I never give up.”
- “As a linebacker, I have to be able to keep up with the running back coming out of the backfield. That’s something I’ve working on at UCLA.”
Matt Slauson Was A Question Mark And Now Has Provided The Answer, More Of The Same From Jets, Preview Jets 5 7 Jaguars 2 10, It Is What It Is It Was What It Was, Round Two Targets Receivers Galore, In The Midst Of The Rubble New Leaders Emerge, Top Storylines To Watch In Training Camp, Morning After Report The Good Bad Ugly