NFL Draft 2011: UCLA's Akeem Ayers & Rahim Moore Head to New York City

Spring game is over but this could be a big week for UCLA football. The NFL Draft is coming up on Thursday night. This year a record 25 players are confirmed to attend the NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York. Two of them happen to be Bruins: FS Rahim Moore and SLB/DE Akeem Moore

Among the 25 invited players to the draft, UCLA is the only school besides Alabama, Auburn and Baylor to be represented by multiple players. I will spare the snark on what that means about the kind of season we had last year. The 25 players are the most to ever attend the Draft.  The previous high was last year, when 17 prospects were on hand at Radio City for the celebration of the 75th NFL Draft, the first-ever in primetime.

The draft will officially begin on Thursday night, April 28 at 8:00 p.m. ET with Round 1.  It will continue on Friday night, April 29 at 6:00 p.m. ET with Rounds 2-3 and continue with Rounds 4-7 on Saturday, April 30 at 12:00 p.m. ET.  NFL Network and ESPN/ESPN2 will provide television coverage on all three days.

Rahim and Akeem have been getting a lot of press. Some sampling after the jump.

The National Football Post did an extensive breakdown on the two Bruins, giving a gushing review on Akeem:

He is very instinctive and consistently around the ball. He plays with leverage and shows strength and power at the point of attack. He has quick hands and good hand use and can get rid of blockers quickly. He has excellent lateral movement and easily moves through trash. He makes a lot of plays versus both the inside and outside run and is a very good pursuit player. He is an explosive sure tackler and you don't see him miss many.

Many times in passing situations he plays down and shows very good pass rush skills. He again shows quick hands and has the ability to use counter moves effectively. He shows good bend and is able to dip his shoulder and get under blockers when coming off the edge. He also shows a nice burst off of blocks to close.

When used in coverage he has a good drop, getting depth and has good awareness in zone. He reacts quickly to the ball in the air and has the plant and drive to close on the play. He is sure handed and has 6 career interceptions. While not a burner, he has the speed and quickness to stay with backs and tight ends in man coverage.

Overall, Ayers could be this year's version of Brandon Spikes. Last year Spikes looked like a first-round talent on tape but tested poorly and dropped to the second round. When he got to New England he played just like he did at Florida and had a very productive rookie year. Ayers still could go in the lower part of the first round and if he goes to a 3-4 team he may turn out to be a great player. Because of his pass rush skills and run stopping ability he is a perfect fit for many of the 3-4 teams. He also can be a SAM linebacker in many 4-3 schemes. Regardless of his average workout, this player is going to be a good pro!

And a somewhat tepid assessment of Rahim:

In zone coverage he played underneath routes well, but I saw him on at least three occasions react late when he was supposed to help out deep. On each play the receiver was by him before he reacted. His range to the sideline was average which doesn't help when you react late. I wasn't able to view any 2009 tape but I have to wonder how a safety can have 10 interceptions one year and only 1 the next? It would be easy to understand if he was a corner because quarterbacks would just not throw his way, but at the safety position it's all about instincts and being in the right place to make a play,

Overall, off the tape I viewed, Moore is not close to being an elite prospect. He is not in the same league as many of the safeties drafted in the first three rounds last year. I see him as strictly a strong safety in the NFL because of his tackling and run support skills but he has trouble in coverage. I wish I had some '09 tape to look at for comparison but I can only grade what I see.

One of the explanations for the drop off in Rahim's interception number this past season was the graduation of ATV. ATV was such an amazing shut down corner time and time, he forced opposing QBs to concentrate on one side of the field. It shortened the coverage area and allowed a ball hawking safety like Rahim to cheat on the other side of the field.

What Rahim has going for him is his attitude and work ethic. His character and leadership skills should make him an asset for an NFL team looking for classic professionals. It also helps that Rahim is heading a weak safety class.

From what I have read Moore so far has visited Cowboys, Titans and Bengals. Akeem Ayers has been linked to the Jets and the Falcons. Charger fans are also enamored with Akeem.

It should be an exciting night for both of these Bruins. Seeing them drafted in first round should be a joyous occasion for everyone. Part of us though will also be left with the "what if" feeling - wondering what could have been if Dan Guerrero had given Rick Neuheisel enough resources to hire a competent defensive coordinator and fully utilize these elite talents during their time at UCLA.

Good luck to both Akeem and Rahim.

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