With the 18th pick in the NFL draft, the Denver Broncos took Robert Ayers. One of the very pleasant surprises of the beleaguered 2008 season, Ayers just exploded as a defensive end and converted himself from a late-round "maybe" to a guaranteed first-day grab.
What Denver Will Get In Ayers
Ayers started his college career with some substantial maturity issues - issues that haunted him and held him back for much of his time in Knoxville. However, he is a terrific natural athlete and a very hard worker. He's made tremendous effort to get his head on straight and seems to be free of any headcase issues, something that the NFL under Goodell absolutely covets in their players.
He's a versatile guy who's been suggested as a 4-3 defensive tackle, a 4-3 defensive end, a 3-4 defensive end, and even an outside linebacker in a 3-4 (the run-defending OLB). That kind of a spread in projections suggests a trainable guy with a "tween" skillset that could be molded for many different systems.
With the transition from the 4-3 system that Denver has used for so many years into a 3-4 system under new head coach Josh McDaniels, Ayers will provide terrific versatility and work ethic for the Broncos. Expect Ayers to be used as a Defensive End in the new Broncos system, with possible use as the run-stopping linebacker in "heavy" personnel packages.
Why He Was Available At #18
The first suspected player for Ayers was the Bills at #11, who went with Aaron Maybin from Penn State. After that, teams seemed very cool Ayers on Ayers for the kiss of death - the "one-year wonder" label. He was seen as a high risk in the first round unless there was a dire need on the D-line. For that reason alone, Ayers fell below other defensive ends like Brian Orakpo and Tyson Jackson who had more consistent careers at Texas and LSU respectively.
So now we wait and see how he turns out. Was the 2008 season an aberration? Was Ayers truly a one-and-done guy? Or did the Denver find a diamond in the rough? Time will tell.