The Denver Broncos, led by Josh McDismantle, drafted Robert Ayers #18 overall in the 2009 NFL Draft. He was selected just 6 picks after Knowshon Moreno. In 2009 we had two 1st Round picks because McDismantle decided to trade away a Franchise QB, coming off of a Pro Bowl season, in Jay Cutler.
Coming out of Tennessee, Robert Ayers was considered a one year wonder by most Draftniks. In his senior season at Tennessee, he notched only 3 sacks, but he had 15.5 Tackles For Loss. Those TFL stats are good, but he only had 9 career sacks in college. Count 'em. 9.
So like many of my fellow citizens in Broncos Country, I was scratching my head when the Broncos took him in the 1st Round. In his rookie season, he had ZERO sacks. He only started 1 game in 2009, but he played in 15. In fact, he didn't notch his first career sack until Week 1 of the 2010 season.
Ayers' biggest contribution as a Bronco came in the 2012 (2011 season) Wildcard Playoff game vs the Pittsburgh Steelers, when he sacked Big Ben TWICE. It looked like he was finally starting to turn the corner. Then the Broncos hired Jack Del Rio after Dennis Allen scored a Head Coaching gig with the Oakland Raiders.
The first defensive draft pick of the Del Rio era was Derek Wolfe. Ayers entered the 2012 Training Camp as the incumbent starter, but Wolfe beat him out on the closed side DE. Reports started trickling out of Dove Valley that Ayers had somehow landed himself in Del Rio's doghouse. And for the rest of the 2012 season, Ayers was mostly a backup to Dumervil and Wolfe.
But now, Dumervil is gone. And Von Miller is suspended for 6 games to start the season. The onus is really on Ayers to perform. And Wolfe too, of course. Many in Broncos Country don't think Ayers has it in him to even come close to replacing Doom's pass rushing numbers. I, on the other hand, believe that Ayers is finally going to produce. He might not score double digit sacks, but I think he's going to come close. He'll go into the season as the unquestioned starter at open side DE. Even though his strength is in the run game, he does possess pass rush tools.
John Elway went on the record a few months ago, saying that he and the Broncos' Brass believe in Robert Ayers. They believe that he can contribute significantly on Defense. I happen to agree with them. He currently has 6.5 career sacks in the Regular Season. I think he at least matches that in 2013. What do ya'll think?