Robert Ayers is known as one of Tennessee's most physically intimidating defenders, a ferocious hitter when the chance arises.
But the 6-foot-3, 270-pound senior defensive end tries not to dwell on Saturday's season- and career-finale against Kentucky (6-5, 2-5). Kickoff inside Neyland Stadium is...[details]
The Good: A powerful lineman on the outside with a natural burst and very impressive pop on contact. Does a great job changing his pass rush between speed and power and uses his length and suddenness well to disengage from blocks. Has great closing speed on the outside and dips well to gain leverage off the edge. Plays strong at the point of attack vs. the run. The Bad: A one-year starter who only saw production in 2008. Lacks great first-step explosion on the outside and won't consistently be able to reach the corner in the NFL.
Positives: Has a frame to hold 290 pounds. Naturally athletic with natural raw strength to rush with power. Locks out and can control the edge. Crashes hard inside, runs to the ball and plays hard. Showed well against top competition - gave Alabama OT Andre Smith fits and got the better of Mississippi OT Michael Oher in one-on-one drills at the Senior Bowl. Plays with balance and gives consistent effort pursuing the ball. Good short-area quickness and agility. Consistently plays behind the line of scrimmage. Great versatility - occasionally stood up and has lined up as a three-technique when not rushing from his customary DE position. Negatives: Not an elite athlete. Average instincts - can be late to find the ball. Did not emerge until his senior season. Can be undisciplined and lose contain. Not an accomplished pass rusher or creative sack artist and only has eight career sacks. Only bench-pressed 225 pounds 18 times at the Combine. Summary: Could be a solid base 4-3 left end or stand up as a 3-4 rush linebacker. Possesses a workable frame to bulk up and move inside or contribute as an inside nickel rusher, given his size, balance and short-area quickness. Tremendous versatility and ability to play anywhere along the line will push up his value, but Ayers is still raw and does not possess elite physical traits to plug in and play right away. Grade: Borderline first-round talent.