As soon as the 4.84 40-time popped up under UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers name, you could instantly hear the murmurs of his draft stock falling. Ayers is an imposing 6-3, 254-pound backer who displays an impressive blend of power and explosion at the point of attack. He’s the one linebacker this year on tape who had the physical capability of not only destroying opposing pulling linemen in the hole, but showcased the range to make plays in pursuit as well. Plus, for his size he exhibited impressive fluidity and balance when asked to change directions and demonstrated the straight-line speed to close quickly on the ball.
Therefore, should his slow 40-time really hurt his draft stock? In my view… no.
On tape he plays like a guy who runs 4.6 and even when watching him during his Combine workout, directly following his 4.8+ 40, he still looked very fluid for a big guy, was explosive out of his breaks and based off his workout alone, I would still say he could run in the 4.6 range.
Now, overall he will likely fall a bit further than he originally could have gone if he posted a better 40 time. However, much like Florida LB Brandon Spikes last year, who fell into the second round because of his slow 40-time, I could see Ayers end up having the same type of instant impact once he gets to the next level.
Ayers isn’t nearly the natural football player that Spikes is. However, he definitely possesses a gifted skill set, can anchor, can shed, can run and looks capable of being versatile enough to perform in just about any scheme. Plus, he has experience playing with his hand on the ground and exhibits some natural pass rush ability off the edge, making him an intriguing candidate for any 34 defense.
Every draft we see a number of good football players fall during this time of the year because of a poor 40 time, that end up developing into early impact players at the next level. And following the Combine, I think that prospect could end up being Ayers this year, and whatever team ends up getting their hands on him is going to be happy that he did.