Anatomy of a WR – Demarcus Ayers

By G Stryker

Demarcus Ayres was drafted in the 7th round of the 2016 draft, thanks to an extra pick the Steelers gained by trading Brad Wing to the Giants. He was a small receiver at 5’9” and 182lbs, and timed a lethargic 4.72 40yd dash in predraft workouts. He had an excellent 2015 season for Houston amassing 97 receptions for 1221 yards and 6 TD.

Ayres was also a successful returner, making the all AAC team in 2013 for kick returning, and also becoming their punt returner in 2015. His measurables and size dropped him in the draft, but by watching his film, there are some really nice things to get excited about. He plays quicker and faster than his recorded 40 yard dash speed, and he has nice wiggle as a ball carrier. Let’s take a look at his 2016 highlights to
see what his tendencies are as a pass catcher in the NFL.

Below are his 2016 Highlights. Follow along with me below.

0:14 Catches a sideline pass with both palms on the ball and his elbows are inside his body frame. This is an excellent catch, using his body to shield the defenders, and immediately
catching the ball with excellent hand placement. Having both palms on the ball secured the possession even after being hit immediately.

0:20 Running full stride, the ball is thrown slightly low to his center, hand positioning is pinkie to pinkie placing both palms on the football for another immediate secure on the catch. Finished this off with his first career TD. This was the best hand positioning he could have to open his palms to the ball, in this situation.

0:36 This was a sideline out route that he came back toward the ball for. By doing this, he created space from the defender and secured the ball pinkie to pinkie putting both palms on the ball for an immediate possession. Elbows were also in, creating the best rotational hand placement he could have. At 40sec on the replay, you can see his foot positioning was perfect to keep in bounds to secure the catch. This play looks like a veteran receiver, not a rookie.

0:44 I’m not sure if he hand checked to gain space or adjusted his route, but he did create space from the defender. As he moves toward the catch, he leans back, opening his body to the ball, placing both thumbs together to open both palms to the football. He finishes the play with a nice stiff arm to gain a few extra yards. This play was important to the Steelers season, as Ayres was on the field and contributing on the game winning drive, in his first game, to help the Steelers win the division.

Runs a nice route, coming across the field on the drag, he adjusts his route to avoid Eli Rogers on the cross and catches the ball in space with room to run. The ball is thrown slightly
behind him, but he doesn’t slow his feet down. He places both hands to the left of his center mass, pinkies together, opening both palms, and follows the ball with his hands to secure the football in stride. The only thing I can nit pick, is I think he brings his route too far toward the line of scrimmage to clear Eli. He already had the depth, and lost depth coming back to the ball in open space.

1:00 Attacks the football by going up to get it, thumbs touching, palms open, secures the ball
immediately, and takes a good hit. Being aggressive to the ball gave him this possession. Anything less would have been defended.

1:08 Same pattern as 0:50. Does a better job of not losing depth running this cross past Eli
Rogers. It looks like he opens both palms with his thumbs together to immediately secure it, and with great hand positioning, it allows the receiver to immediately secure the football and
tuck it away. He turns into a runner after the 2yd reception, stops his momentum and cuts up field as the defender passes by him. Also showed nice wiggle at the first down line to create 5 more yards when he splits the defenders.

1:20 Both hands up thumbs in, palms open, basically secures the ball entirely with his right hand
and hand placement is so perfect, that the tuck is immediate. He takes a 3 yard route, stops his momentum to the middle of the field by cutting outside, gaining 8 more yards and the first down. (Eli Rogers has a nice block on that play as well).

1:30 is down field blocking and continues with the block through the entire play. He shields his
man so Bell can score untouched. This is a nice block rarely seen by rookies. (since rookies usually give up blocking after 2-3sec on a running play), and even more rarely seen by receivers
his size.

1:40 Faces the ball, thumbs together, both palms on the ball. Ayres is hit quickly, but with both
palms on the ball, possession is again secured.

1:45 Opens his body to the ball. Pinkies are together, both palms are open, and looks like he
uses his body as a third point on the football at the catch. If it wasn’t for a nice shoestring tackle by the defender, this would have been a big gain. This was the same play as his TD earlier in the game. The Steelers liked what they saw on this play so much, that they went back to it on 4th down in overtime, to extend the drive and eventually secure the win. What I see here is a receiver with a compact catching window, who increases his catching percentage by placing 2 hands on the ball and opening his palms to the football. He has excellent hand placement, he keeps his elbows inside his body, and runs well after the catch to gain more yardage. I think he can work more on his routes, and coming in and out of breaks, but as an NFL WR, he passes the eye test, and does not look like a rookie, let alone a 7th rounder.

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