Draft Exclusive 11: Do-It-All OLB

In our latest story about a potential Packers first-round pick, we introduce you to a versatile linebacker who interviewed with the Packers at the Scouting Combine. This finalist for the Butkus Award timed poorly in Indy but his game speed has never been an issue.

UCLA's Akeem Ayers ran a shockingly slow 40-yard time of 4.84 seconds at the Scouting Combine.

That could be good news for the Green Bay Packers, who could field a potentially fearsome defense if they can find an impact outside linebacker to pair with Clay Matthews.

The 6-foot-3, 254-pound Wilson, who entered the draft following his junior season, is about as versatile as any linebacker prospect in this draft. A linebacker in the Bruins' 4-3 scheme, Ayers finished third for the Butkus Award, given annually to college football's best linebacker. He finished with four sacks, 10 tackles for losses, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. In two seasons as a starter, he finished with 10 sacks, 24.5 TFLs and six interceptions — including two pick-sixes as a sophomore.

The Packers used one of their 60 formal interviews on Ayers at the Scouting Combine, he told Packer Report, and he could be a target with the 32nd overall pick of the draft in exactly eight weeks.

"I feel like I can adapt to any kind of defense, whether it's 4-3 or 3-4 because of my versatility playing defensive end in college and being a pass-rush linebacker," he said at the Combine. "I don't think fitting into any defense will be a problem."

Unlike most of the top 3-4 outside linebacker candidates in this draft, Ayers played linebacker in college. So, rather than trying to guess on whether a collegiate defensive end has the athletic ability and awareness to drop into coverage, scouts simply have to flip on the tape. In fact, Ayers covered more than he rushed during his two seasons as a starter.

"I definitely know I can cover well," he said. "Back in my college, our defensive scheme used me a lot in man coverage, whether it was covering a tight end or covering a running back. That's something I believe I do well.

"I think I can be a great standing-up linebacker. I know I'm nowhere near reaching my peak. I've done a pretty good job rushing the passer over these past two seasons. I'm only going to get better. The sky's the limit for me as far as rushing the passer. And I'm going to get better in coverage."

Among Ayers' many accolades with the Bruins, one that makes him especially proud was being voted a team captain this past season despite being only a junior.

"Man, it just shows how your teammates look up to you and the type of player you are," Ayers said, calling himself a lead-by-example player because nobody would follow his words if he wasn't pushing himself through sprints or putting in the extra time necessary to be his best.

"We had a pretty young team but it told me how my teammates look up to me, and it made me want to work harder and made me want to be a better player for my teammates. I know that if I play well and I do the right things, that I can make the people around me better."

Ayers said the Ravens' Terrell Suggs is his favorite player because Suggs excels when lined up at linebacker, defensive end or even defensive tackle.

"I feel like I can do the same thing," he said.

Agree or disagree?: Discuss hot Packers topics in our, free forums. Leave Bill a question in the subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum.

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.

Packer Report Top Stories