UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers trots into the end zone after returning an interception… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)
Reporting from New York
Akeem Ayers came to New York looking for answers, but it wasn't until he returned to Los Angeles that he got them.
The UCLA linebacker, who attended the first round of the NFL draft thinking he would be among the first 32 selections, flew home disappointed Friday — only to learn when he got back that the Tennessee Titans had made him the seventh pick of the second round (39th overall).
He returned to the West Coast with the intention of watching the telecast of the draft with his family. He got a call from the Titans on his drive home from the airport.
"It's a greater feeling when you answer the phone and don't know who it is," said Ayers, who will be reunited on Tennessee's defense with former UCLA teammate Alterraun Verner.
Six selections later, Denver chose UCLA safety Rahim Moore, who also attended the draft but, unlike Ayers, decided to stay and wait it out in the green room at Radio City Music Hall.
"It's not about when you go, but that you're going to get there," Moore said.
Friday marked the first time UCLA has had two players selected in the first two rounds since 2006, when tight end Marcedes Lewis and running back Maurice Jones-Drew were taken in the first and second rounds, respectively.
A day after Dallas made USC offensive tackle Tyron Smith the ninth pick, two more Trojans were selected in the third round. Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey went to Tennessee with the 77th pick, and defensive back Shareece Wright was chosen 89th by San Diego.
This was the first time since 2003 that USC didn't have a player selected in the second round. It was also the second consecutive year, and third in five, that the Trojans had only one player chosen among the top 50. They had four such players in 2009: Mark Sanchez, Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews and Rey Maualuga.
There were plenty of highly touted prospects biding their time Friday, as several potential first-rounders slipped deep into the second and beyond.
The most notable tumblers were Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers, who once was considered a possible No. 1 overall pick but was torpedoed by a bum knee, and Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett, whose character questions overloaded him with off-the-field baggage.
Bowers fell all the way to 51, where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took him, and Mallett went to New England early in the third round with the 74th pick.
"The last 24 hours have been crazy long," Bowers said. "It's been grueling just waiting for that one phone call. I'm just glad for the opportunity that Tampa Bay gave me. I want to show them that they made a great pick and it wasn't a mistake."
Making the wait feel even longer for Bowers, two fellow Clemson defenders went before him in the second round: defensive lineman Jarvis Jenkins to Washington at 41, and defensive back Marcus Gilchrist to San Diego at 50.
Asked if he would have dreamed he'd be drafted before Bowers, Jenkins said: "If you told me 10 times, I wouldn't have believed you at all."
A day after four of the first 12 picks were quarterbacks, two more went at the top of the second round. Texas Christian's Andy Dalton was the third pick of the day, 35th, to Cincinnati, indicating the Bengals are coming around to the idea that Carson Palmer won't be back.
One spot later, San Francisco made a trade with Denver and moved into position to take Nevada's Colin Kaepernick, a strong-armed player who put up big numbers in the so-called "pistol" offense. New Coach Jim Harbaugh will help him transition to a pro-style offense where Kaepernick will be mostly under center.
The Oakland Raiders, who also had been eyeing Kaepernick, went back to their roots with their first pick in the draft, which didn't come until the 48th spot. They chose Penn State center Stefen Wisniewski, nephew of former Raiders All-Pro guard Steve Wisniewski.
Illinois linebacker Martez Wilson, seen by some as a possible late first-rounder, wasn't chosen until the third round, when he went 72nd to New Orleans.