With Saturday's first two rounds mere days away, Tennessee defensive end Robert Ayers continues to be one of the risers.
When Pro Football Weekly published its 2009 Draft Guide a few weeks back, Ayers was rated sixth among defensive ends and tabbed a second- to third-round pick. Now, however, PFW.com, lists Ayers as the 26th-best player in the entire draft and a virtual lock to go in Round 1.
In its Draft Guide, PFW noted that Ayers' upside includes the “strength to bull-rush and leverage the edge.... Rose to the occasion against better opposition – he troubled Alabama's Andre Smith with his quickness and handled Mississippi's Michael Oher in drills at the Senior Bowl.... Athletic and plays on his feet with good balance, base and core strength....”
Under downside, PFW noted that Ayers was a “one-year starter. Inconsistent effort. Does not have explosive upfield speed. Disappears at times....”
Ultimately, PFW says “Ayers' best spot could be inside (at tackle).”
Whereas Ayers' stock has made a steady climb in recent weeks, Vol teammates have seen their stock slip.
Tailback Arian Foster was rated a third- to fourth-round pick in PFW's Draft Guide, with the notation: “Runs hard when he wants to and shows some tackle-breaking ability. Has nice size and natural hands. Catches the ball cleanly and gets upfield quickly after the catch.” Foster is not listed among PFW.com's top 150 prospects as the draft approaches, however, which suggests he is not projected to be taken in the first five rounds.
Ex-Vol Ramon Foster was rated No. 13 among offensive tackle prospects and given a fourth- to fifth-round grade in PFW's Draft Guide, which noted he is “Naturally strong. Excellent size with long arms, and he looks the part. Understands angles and gets good positioning. Solid run blocker – can create a push. Versatile – can play guard or tackle.” Like Arian Foster, however, Ramon has slipped a bit and is not listed among PFW.com's top 150 draft prospects this week.
Two other former Vols were listed as potential draft picks by PFW's Draft Guide – offensive lineman Anthony Parker and defensive lineman Demonte Bolden.
Parker was rated No. 14 among guard prospects and tabbed a Round 7 draft pick, with the explanation that he is “Fairly agile and light on his feet. Shows the ability to pull and work in space. Has the mass to sit in pass protection and anchor.”
Bolden was not mentioned among PFW's top 20 defensive tackle prospects but was listed among the “Best of the Rest” with the notation that he is a “Naturally talented, troubled underachiever.”
Lucas Taylor, who caught 73 passes for an even 1,000 yards in 2007 before slumping badly as a senior in 2008, was not listed among the 40 wide receivers PFW rated as draft-worthy.
Ellix Wilson, who led Tennessee with 89 tackles last fall, was not listed among the 20 inside linebackers or 30 outside linebackers PFW deemed to be draft-worthy. Fellow '08 seniors Adam Myers-White and Nevin McKenzie also were not mentioned.
Britton Colquitt, who followed a superb junior season at UT with a suspension-shortened senior season, was not among the three draft-worthy punters listed by PFW's Draft Guide.
DeAngelo Willingham was not to be found among PFW's 35 draft-worthy cornerback prospects or its 25 draft-worthy safety prospects.