Ayers didn't have a great combine and a lot of people are down on him, but when you study the tape he's always around the ball, shows great versatility and has the ability to get after the quarterback. The Eagles have a history of drafting hybrid DE/OLB prospects and plugging them in at linebacker, and Ayers would offer an upgrade on the outside over Moise Fokou, who started 11 games as a second-year player in 2010.
I'm not sure I agree with the premise of the pick. Chris Gocong comes to mind as a hybrid DE/OLB that they plugged in at linebacker, but he was a 3rd round project. I'm failing to think of any others. Ricky Sapp, maybe? He's never played an NFL game, and I think the Eagles have him slated as a DE anyway. Andy Studebaker? He plays LB in the NFL, but never suited up in a real game in Philly. I'd be lying if I claimed to know a ton about Moise Fokou's career in Maryland, but I'm pretty sure he was solely a LB there. That's all I can think of. If there's one I'm forgetting, I can confidently say with 100% certainty that the Eagles have never drafted a DE/LB hybrid and converted him to a linebacker successfully, at least during the Andy Reid era.
I'm not a fan of this pick regardless. Although it's a smaller need, it's not as big of a need as getting some corner or OL help. If you're going to stray away from picking for need to take the best player available (a strategy I fully endorse, mind you), the question becomes, "Is Akeem Ayers the best player available?" I don't believe he is in any scenario at 23.
In the second round, McShay has the Eagles selecting OG William Rackley from Lehigh. All I can say that's positive about that pick is that at least the Eagles won't incur any travel expenses to get him there for training camp. Then again, I've never seen him play, so what do I know?
[Note by JimmyK, 03/16/11 4:43 PM EDT ] - Somehow I missed what McShay perceives as the Eagles' top needs:
Top needs: CB, OLB, ROG, OT, QB