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Sunday, February 27, 2011
UCLA OLB Ayers checks in

By Mike Reiss

INDIANAPOLIS -- When NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock was asked which outside linebacker might be the best fit for the Patriots with the No. 17 overall pick, he said UCLA's Akeem Ayers would be a logical choice.

Ayers visited the media center at the combine late Sunday afternoon and said he'd yet to meet with the Patriots, but would welcome it.

"I think I would be a great fit for their defense," he said.

Ayers, who is considered one of the better pass rushers in the draft, measured 6-foot-3, 254 pounds. When comparing Ayers to Georgia outside linebacker Justin Houston (6-2, 270) -- who showed up in the media center right after Ayers -- he looked a bit smaller and it made me wonder how he'd hold up on the edge of the defense against the run.

Ayers expressed confidence he could get the job done.

"I feel like I can adapt to any kind of defense, whether it's 4-3 or 3-4, because of my versatility playing defensive end in college [and] being a pass-rush linebacker," he said.

Ayers said he's played in pass coverage at UCLA, which is always a big question for outside linebackers in a 3-4 defense. He said that's how he started his career at UCLA before becoming more of a pass rusher the end of his sophomore season.

That pass-rush burst -- Ayers had 14 sacks over the last three seasons -- is what probably appeals most to the Patriots.

"As far as my pass-rush ability, I know I'm nowhere near reaching my peak," he said. "I've done a pretty good job rushing the passer these last two seasons and I'm only going to get better."