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In 2003, the NCAA’s record-breaking sack machine, Terrell Suggs, ran a 4.84 40-yard dash at the combine. It scared off enough teams that Suggs dropped to No. 10 overall, where the Ravens gladly scooped him up.
To say the move has paid off would be an understatement.
This year, ESPN’s Mel Kiper sees another similar prospect who could slide to the back of the first round. Could it be another opportunity for the Ravens?
“The guy that I think is kind of a Suggs-like player in this draft is Akeem Ayers,” Kiper said.
“The thing that’s the same with those two is they’re both Pac-10 guys and they’re both suspect because of speed. Suggs didn’t have a great 40. Ayers doesn’t have the great 40. But they’re both productive, very solid football players.”
Like Suggs, Ayers ran a 4.84 at the combine, which immediately raised eyebrows considering he carried a reputation of being extremely athletic. The 6-foot-4, 255-pound UCLA product did rebound, however, with a reported 4.69 at his pro day.
Ayers was consistent over his final two seasons. He recorded 69 and 68 tackles, respectively, seven combined sacks and six interceptions. He had two touchdowns and two forced fumbles in 2009.
Suggs recorded an NCAA single-season record 24 sacks in 2002, but was more of a true defensive end that converted to a stand-up hybrid linebacker. Ayers is more of a true outside linebacker at this point.
“Even though [Ayers] wasn’t as productive as Suggs was at Arizona State, he’s a different kind of player,” Kiper said. “He’s a guy that can play in reverse, he can play the run well and also give you enough of a pass rush.”
Kiper projects Ayers to be taken at No. 21 by the Kansas City Chiefs, five picks before the Ravens are on the clock. But fellow ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay has Ayers penciled into Round 2 at No. 38 to the Arizona Cardinals, meaning he could be available to Baltimore.