After I placed him fourth in my list of top five draft prospects for the Falcons, I realized that Akeem Ayers was the only guy on the list I hadn't spent any time discussing. Rather than leave that out in left field like Stan Musial, I decided to explain why I think Ayers is a good fit for the Falcons.
A junior linebacker with UCLA, Ayers
So what makes him such a good fit, you ask? For the answer, hit the jump like a drunken frog.
Let's look at the stats first. Ayers was a force in his sophomore year, piling up 14.5 tackles for losses, 6 sacks, 4 interceptions and two forced fumbles. He followed up that impressive campaign with a 2010 season that saw him pile up 10 tackles for losses, four sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. He's about as well-rounded a player as you'll find in this year's draft.
Ayers has excellent instincts against the pass, but scouts have some concerns about his ability to read offenses and not bite so hard on play fakes that he leaves teeth marks on the turf. He also needs to tinker with his tackling technique, being less of a wrap-up guy than you'd like from an outside linebacker.
While he's a junior, Ayers was a team captain and is by all accounts a bright kid who will have a shallow learning curve when he reaches the NFL. The physical talent and production are also pretty close to bulletproof. He's a late first round pick, without a doubt.
A lot of teams seem to think he'll be a good fit as an inside linebacker in a 3-4, but that's obviously not something that would interest the Falcons, who run that there 4-3. I'm convinced that Ayers could be a very good 4-3 outside linebacker at the NFL level, or that he could put on 25 pounds and play defensive end if called upon. The latter is a lot less likely, so we'll assume he stays at linebacker.
As a capable defender against the pass, he'd be an immediate upgrade on Mike Peterson. His athleticism and quality pass rushing instincts would make him an awesome bookend to Sean Weatherspoon, and a dominant linebacking corps has long been the Falcons' bread and butter.
Perhaps not the likeliest pick, but one I'd be thrilled with. How about you?