Far and away, the player Detroit Lions fans want to see more of is UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers.
Ayers declared eligible for this year’s draft after his junior season.
“I felt I (completed) every goal that I wanted to do (in college),” he said. “I had a perfect opportunity to achieve one of my goals that I set out as a little kid, which was just to have a chance to play in the NFL. I have that opportunity right now and I plan on pursuing it.”
At 6-4, 255 pounds, Ayers could fit as a 3-4 rush player or a 4-3 linebacker, depending on how a team sees him.
On Sunday, Ayers said he had talked with teams about both options, but hadn’t gotten into detail.
“I feel like I can adapt to any kind of defense as far as 4-3 or 3-4 because of my versatility playing defensive end in college,” he said.
“I feel like adapting to any defense won’t be a problem.”
Adaptability is something the Lions are looking for in an outside linebacker.
While teams that run a 3-4 scheme are often looking for a specific build and skill set at the outside linebacker position, Head Coach Jim Schwartz says the No. 1 trait for his linebackers has to be versatility.
“It’s hard to hide one-trick ponies on defense,” he said. “You (may) have a guy who’s not a good pass-defender, he’s a really good run-defender, but you can’t choose whether the opponent offense is going to run or pass.”
So having players at linebacker who can do everything well is imperative.
As far as Ayers’ skill set, his strength has been in coverage.
“That’s something I believe I do well,” he said. “I think I’m a great standing-up linebacker.”
He says he’s done well rushing the passer, but he has room for improvement.
“I know I’m nowhere near reaching my peak,” said Ayers.
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When polled regarding draft prospects, Detroit Lions’ fans favored the secondary.
Prince Amukamera, Nebraska
Brandon Harris, Miami
Jimmy Smith, Colorado
Patrick Peterson, LSU
Curtis Brown, Texas
Ras-I Dowling, Virginia
Rahim Moore, UCLA
Robert Sands, West Virginia
Brandon Burton, Utah
Lions’ General Manager Martin Mayhew was asked this week what he looks for in terms of cornerbacks. As a former corner, he believes the most important thing is competitiveness.
Mayhew: “Being competitive and not wanting anybody to catch any ball is the difference, I think, between the great ones in this business and the good-to-average ones. All of those guys compete, really play hard and take it personally if somebody catches the ball on him. I think that’s important. All of those guys have different skill sets and different abilities and they all have a chance to play for us.”
Many of the prospects spoke of their competitiveness at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Colorado’s Jimmy Smith had zero interceptions in 2010 after opponent offenses essentially refused to throw at him. He said he had one opportunity to intercept a pass one-handed, but wasn’t able to bring it in.
“After that I got, maybe, about three passes thrown my way for the rest of the season,” he said.
That being said, Smith isn’t shying away from being “picked on” as an NFL rookie.
“I can’t wait. I want to be in the game,” he said. “I didn’t get thrown at much in college. I know the NFL is definitely going to test me – I’m excited about that.”
UCLA’s Rahim Moore also dealt with offenses avoiding him in 2010. Moore had 10 interceptions in 2009, but had just one last season.
“A lot of time teams wouldn’t throw at me,” he said. “I had to switch my game up, play more of a strong safety type. In our system, a free safety has to be a strong safety and a strong safety has to be a free. I mixed it up, showed teams I can be physical down in the box and be an overall football player.”
Tags: Martin Mayhew
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Detroit Lions coaches and scouting personnel are currently working diligently in preparation for next week’s NFL Scouting Combine – the next step in the draft evaluation process.
One benefit the group has this year is two offseasons with Head Coach Jim Schwartz already in the books.
Schwartz: “I think the scouts have had a couple years to see the schemes that we play, to see which players are successful in those schemes and to see where some players that haven’t been successful have gone wrong.“
That is one of the many advantages to having continuity with the head coach and both coordinators.
Schwartz: “I think it was well documented last year that it was the first year we had the head coach and both coordinators back for something like a decade. When that happens, it’s easier for the scouts to do their job.
“They know what we do on defense rather than trying to hit a moving target. They know who has done well in the system and the reasons for that. “
There has also been a refinement process with the way General Manager Martin Mayhew works with the coaching staff.
Schwartz says Mayhew is particularly good at laying out draft scenarios prior to the selection process, posing potential trades and other moves to help the group get a good idea of what Detroit would do in each situation.
This will be even more important since the possibilities are far greater considering Detroit is carrying the 13th-overall pick instead of the second.
Schwartz: “The plan is just to keep improving the team and not to say, ‘Well, we have to get an offensive lineman; a quarterback; a defensive lineman.’ If your objective is narrower than improving the team – such as targeting a particular position – sometimes you can lose the forest through the trees.”
Tags: Jim Schwartz, Martin Mayhew
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Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com sought the help of fans to determine this year’s All-NFC North team roster. The roster is comprised of the best players available for each position among the NFC North.
Seifert, along with the help of fans via email and Twitter, determined the following five Detroit Lions to be named to the “starting line-up”: WR Calvin Johnson, T Jeff Backus, TE Brandon Pettigrew, DT Ndamukong Suh and WR/KR Stefan Logan.
For the full NFC North roster, click here.
Tags: Brandon Pettigrew, Calvin Johnson, Jeff Backus, Ndamukong Suh, Stefan Logan
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Detroitlions.com is headed to the NFL Scouting Combine.
Considering the amount of interest in the event generated by Detroit’s knowledgeable fan base, Detroitlions.com wants to know what NFL prospects you are interested in hearing more about.
The most popular choices will then be highlighted in March and April on Detroitlions.com as the NFL Draft approaches.
Which prospects do you want to know more about?
If you have a vote, email your choice to Detroitlions.com with the subject line, “Prospects.”
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