Below is a list of the 2011 NFL Draft class of the Tennessee Titans.
Round 1, Pick 8: Jake Locker (Grade: I, Potential B+, Analysis)
Round 2, Pick 39: Akeem Ayers
Round 3, Pick 77: Jurrell Casey
Round 4, Pick 109: Colin McCarthy
Round 4, Pick 130: Jamie Harper
Round 5, Pick 142: Karl Klug
Round 6, Pick 175: Byron Stingily
Round 7, Pick 212: Zach Clayton
Round 7, Pick 251: Tommie Campbell
Each player has had three seasons to prove himself. Which players are ahead of the curve? Which players remain with the team? Which players have yet to meet their potential?
Ever heard of the term, ‘sophomore slump?’ That’s coined for anyone who experiences a drop off from his or her rookie season. Any high school student should have familiarity with ‘senioritis.’ A drop off during a student’s senior season (e.g. fourth year) is often accredited to students looking ahead toward their future. They’re breezing through their final coursework. All they’re concerned about what lies ahead (e.g. college or career).
An initial glance at Akeem Ayers suggests that, during his third NFL season, he went through some type of ‘junior slump’ or ‘junioritis.’ Does such thing exist? It does according to Urban Dictionary:
A condition especially pertaining to juniors with rigorous academic schedules and strong ambitions for college that inhibits them from willingly doing their work and poses them ask the age-old question, “What is the point of all of this?”
Often leads to senioritis.
“What is the point of all of this?” Maybe that’s what Ayers—and the rest of the linebackers—were thinking while playing for a high school football coach masquerading as an NFL linebackers coach. What appeared like a promising strength entering the 2013-14 NFL season turned into a major concern under Chet Parlavecchio‘s one-year tenure. Ayers, Zach Brown and Colin McCarthy all witnessed their statistical production and overall ability regress from one season ago. Brown has stated that the new coaching staff has already brought a much more communicative approach and that players are looking out for each other, not just themselves.
Another element that hampered Ayers’ progression:
Can’t Believe I Played An Entire Season With A Bad Knee That Needed Surgery
— AKEEM AYERS (@Akeem_Ayers) January 18, 2014
Count 2013 as an anomaly. Now the question is how much playing time does Ayers receive among an outside linebacker group that consists of Shaun Phillips plus hybrid edge-specialists Derrick Morgan and Kamerion Wimbley. Upon entering the 2011 NFL Draft, draft experts were projecting Ayers as a better fit for a 3-4 defense. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton will give Ayers his first opportunity at the professional level to prove those analysts correct.
Ayers is another player who, much like Locker, could enjoy a breakout campaign during his contract year. At the least, there’s negligible chance that he plays another 16 games and finishes with a measly one sack. His 2013 season damages his current grade, however, a strong 2014 season would have him back on track toward making this a pretty solid draft class of defensive players that includes our next player: Jurrell Casey.
Grade: C+ (with B Potential)
UP NEXT: Jurrell Casey, DT, USC