Demarcus Ayers' decision to leave the Houston Cougars a year early was a massive one for Ayers and the Cougars, but it wasn't surprising. The threat of injury, a streak of bad form or other variables are scary for young athletes on the verge of turning pro.
Ayers exploded in 2015 with the Cougars, finding a lethal connection with quarterback Greg Ward Jr. and using sharp quickness and cleverness to create separation from his defenders.
But for all the talent he has and the skills he's improved while Houston, it certainly seemed like Ayers had work to do in Houston. The 1222-yard season that featured six scores was certainly impressive, but it may have impacted his personal view of his ability more than anyone else.
In an article by the Houston Chronicle's Aaron Wilson, Ayers had this to say about his decision:
"I chose to go pro because I was ready to take my game to another level," Ayers said. "My passion, my love for the game, I was playing some of my best ball and coming off a great season. I'm ready to give all my time to football. I couldn't pass up this opportunity for my family to have this."
He's not wrong about any of this. His play in 2015 was encouraging that he could play consistently at the pro level, and, like most college players, he is excited to contribute to his family with the money and other opportunities that come with playing in the NFL.
However, his belief in his ability obviously doesn't mean anyone else does. For example, here's a quote from an anonymous NFL personnel director from Ayers' combine profile on NFL.com.
"Should have gone back to school and worked on his craft. Right now I don't think he can distinguish himself enough from others at that same position. I need to see those system guys transcend the scheme and I didn't see it."
Throw in a rough combine performance (seen in the NFL.com link above) due to his broken hand, which featured a 4.72 40-yard dash, one of the worst in the class, and it's clear that Ayers' last real chance to prove himself to scouts is his March 24 pro day.
— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) February 27, 2016
There will probably be a large amount of scouts at his pro day due to the situation with his broken hand, but the damage could already be done. It's not necessarily fair or accurate, but these are the kind of circumstances an NFL prospect can find himself in.
Ayers will most likely be done recovering by the pro day, but the impact on all-around training and exercise will probably show up in his performances. And for him to wipe the combine slate clean, he'll need to post numbers up to expectations.
It has not been a great start for Ayers, but the decision has been made and he now has to rebound to save his draft position. He's got the talent and mindset to play at the next level, but it's going to take extensive steps and a strong finish at his March 24 pro day.