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Latest 2011 NFL Mock Draft Projects Akeem Ayers In Mid First Round

The 2011 NFL Draft is still more than two months away -- after all the Super Bowl still has yet to be played -- but that doesn't mean it's too early to speculate on where USC and UCLA players will end up in April. In fact, since the Senior Bowl was just played on Saturday, ranking college prospects is more relevant than ever. Brian Galliford over at SB Nation has his latest 2011 NFL mock draft up, and a few local players are slated to be picked in the first round.

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Akeem Ayers was a defensive stalwart at linebacker for the UCLA Bruins, and Galliford has Ayers getting drafted 17th by the New England Patriots. Of Ayers, Galliford said:

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Versatility is the name of Ayers' game, as he has a lot of experience dropping into coverage. Many scouts believe he has the athleticism and size to rush the passer as a 3-4 outside linebacker, as well. Bill Belichick would find a way to use him alongside Jerod Mayo.

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Tyron Smith, who started 24 games at offensive tackle in his last two years with the USC Trojans, is projected to go 29th, to the Chicago Bears. Galliford noted, "Smith may not be NFL-ready, but he's a sturdy run and pass blocker with more upside than any offensive lineman in this draft class." USC was without a first round pick in last year's NFL draft for the first time since 2007. The Trojans have had 14 first round picks in the last eight years.

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The 2011 NFL draft will be held over three days, from April 28-30 at Radio City Music Hall in New York. For more information on Ayers, Smith, or more local college football talent, be sure to read Bruins Nation and Conquest Chronicles.