We continue on in our review of possible draft picks for the Kansas City Chiefs by beginning a series where we will take a look at potential first round picks.
The Chiefs hold the 21st pick in the first round of the draft so over the coming days we’ll be looking at players projected to go around the middle to late first round. We’ll even pick a couple of guys expected to go early that we think could drop.
Today I want to look at DE/OLB Akeem Ayers. Earlier today, Mel Kiper of ESPN.com released his latest mock draft in which he had the Chiefs selecting Ayers.
Here is what Kiper had to say about Ayers:
"Ayers surprised a lot of people with some mediocre workouts two weeks ago, given a reputation for athleticism, but that can’t drop him too far, because the tape doesn’t lie and his skill set is such that he can help a team early. A good fit on the edge in the Chiefs’ system, Ayers fills an obvious need at outside linebacker in the 3-4 and isn’t just a pass-rusher. More in the Mike Vrabel mold, he can cover, rush and tackle well against the run."
Mike Vrabel! The Chiefs love Mike Vrabel. If that is the case, Ayers is signed, sealed and delivered.
Let’s go deeper than just evaluating Ayers by where he rates on the “Vrabel-matic Meter.”
Actually, that isn’t a bad idea. Ok, from now, on, when I do these evaluations, I am going to give the player a Vrabel-matic Meter rating. The Vrabel-matic Meter goes from 0-10, with 10 being the best.
For example, if I think a player is absolutely draft worthy, I might award him a score of 10 on the Vrabel-matic Meter.*
Thus, if Jamaal Charles would be available in the first round, I’d give him 10 Vrabels where I’d give Tyson Jackson 2 Vrabels.
*Fun Fact: “Vrabels” is AA slang term for “intangibles.” For a player to get a 10 on the Vrabel-matic Meter, he not only needs to have talent but he also must pocess vrabels.
Alright, now that we have a system in place, let’s look at Ayers and see where he rates on the Vrabel-matic Meter.
Here is what our scouts over at With The First Pick had to say about Ayers:
"Akeem Ayers is one of the more versatile players in the 2011 draft. Unlike most college linebackers, Ayers produces numbers in every stat box. In his sophomore and junior year, he racked up a total of 141 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, 9 sacks, 6 interceptions, and 4 forced fumbles. So as you can see, he is definitely a playmaker. There are still questions about what position he’ll play in the NFL. He has the tools to play any one of the four linebacker positions in a 3-4. I tend to think he is best suited as a sam outside linebacker. When he lines up as an outside linebacker, his athletic abilities really shine. He becomes more dynamic and tends to be more decisive. If he does get placed on the inside, he’ll need to learn to use his speed at all times. Become more physical at the point of attack, and be more aggressive. Ayers grades out high, and one of the fifth-teen 3-4 teams will take him In the 1st round."
Interesting. We know that the Chiefs lover versatility and Ayers is certainly that. The fact that he might be able to step into any one of the team’s linebacker positions will probably be very attractive to Scott Pioli.
As far as vrables go, Ayers was multi-year team captain and a 2010 3rd Team AP All-American. The sets him at a 5 on the Vrabel-matic Meter already.
Against the run:
Our scouts aren’t crazy about Ayers vs. the run. Both our scouts at With The First Pick and NFL Mocks seem to agree that while Ayers is a willing run stuffer, he often hesitates in an effort not to get burned on screen passes. This often leads to him taking a step backward into coverage even on runs and then allowing the ball to come to him. Ayers appears to be a solid tackle but he projects more as a finesse guy as opposed to a physical punisher.
From NFL Mocks:
"Ayers is a good wrap-up tackler who can get the ball carrier in the backfield because of his size/speed combination. Ayers can tackle well in the open field, and is excellent at dragging defenders down from behind. He plays under control and relies on technique to bring down the ball carrier. Ayers is also good at getting into position to drive the ball carrier back into defensive traffic. However, Ayers is not a punishing tackler at the point of attack, despite have tremendous size for a linebacker."
Against the pass:
This is an area I am particularly interested in because quite frankly, KC’s current linebackers are terrible against the pass. Hali and Belcher are downright awful. Derrick Johnson is better and while he has a nose for the ball (even though he can’t catch it) he coverage isn’t his specialty.
Our scouts at NFL Mocks really like Ayers in pass coverage. While they don’t believe he necessarily has the speed to stick with a WR or fast TE’s in man coverage, he displays good instincts for getting into position to break up plays and for reading the QB’s eyes.
"Ayers is excellent for a linebacker in zone coverage because he can read the quarterbacks eyes, he gets good depth and in good position immediately and he has a good feel for the passing game. This is, to me, Ayers strength."
Ayers doesn’t appear to have a lot of pass rushing moves but the ones he does have he uses well. His long arms are a big asset, not only in pass coverage but getting to the QB. He has nice quickness so he can use his physical tools to get close to the QB and bat down balls when he doesn’t beat his man in time.
In closing, it looks like we have a pretty good athlete in Ayers. He had a bit of a disappointing combine performance, however, as Kiper says, the tape doesn’t lie. Our scouts seem to think he will be a very solid player at the very least with the potential to be very good because of his athletic tools.
I think the Chiefs will like his versatility and his vrabels. If Ayers is available when KC’s number gets called they will likely give him a hard look. The big unknown factor here is that we don’t know what the Chiefs think of Andy Stuebaker. The re-signed him but they also kept starting Mike Vrabel throughout 201 even though Vrabel’s game fell off. I don’t know if this is because they didn’t think Studi was ready, if they think Studi is not ever going to be a starter or if it was just because they love them some Vrabel. I just don’t know.
What I do know is that I wish I could have seen more of Studebaker this season. The Chiefs, however, know a lot more about Studebaker than we do. If they take an OLB in the first round, it will seem to indicate that they see Studi as more of a backup/situational player than a starter.
Taking Ayers would certainly go a long way toward solidifying the LB position for the Chiefs for some time. They’d be in pretty good shape with Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson, Jovan Belcher, Andy Studebaker, Cameron Sheffield, Demorrio Williams in Akeem Ayers. They’d have a pretty solid, athletic group of starters and some experienced, solid backups to go to battle with.
What I don’t like about Ayers is his lack of physicality. I don’t really look at the Chiefs as a very physical defense and I think they could use a little more in the area of intimidation. The scouting reports seem to indicate that he doesn’t show the sharpest instincts, although that might be able to be corrected with some solid coaching from Romeo Crennel.
Right now I wouldn’t hate an Ayers pick but I don’t know that I’m crazy about it either.
At this time, I’m giving him a 7 on the Vrabel-matic Meter.
What do you think Addicts? What do you give Ayers on the Vrabel-matic?