The 2015 NFL Draft was filled with its fair share of high-profile running backs ready to make their mark at the professional level. The biggest fish, in the running back pond, was without a doubt Todd Gurley, who was followed by Melvin Gordon. Although, 22 running backs were selected in the NFL Draft, after these two backs, there was much disparity amongst the ranking masses. However, one thing was clear, redshirt junior running back Jay Ajayi, out of Boise State, was firmly entrenched as a consensus top 5 rookie running back.
The Road to “Ajayi”-daho
Hailing from the small Dallas township of Frisco, Texas, Jay Ajayi is a young man gifted with natural athleticism. In fact, Ajayi was a coveted duel sport athlete in high school. During his senior season, Ajayi rocketed his way to 2,240 yards and 35 touchdowns, while also lettering in track as a sprinter. His high school accolades awarded him a 3-star rating from rivals.com and ranked him as the #41 overall running back prospect in the country. Ultimately, Ajayi’s high school pedigree earned him an opportunity to play D-I football at Boise State.
After redshirting his freshman season in 2011, Ajayi eventually enjoyed a prolific collegiate career, while at Boise State. Ajayi amassed 3,796 rushing yards, good for an average of 5.6ypc and 50 rushing touchdowns. Additionally, Ajayi put his multi-faceted gifts on display as he also racked up 73 receptions for 771 yards and another 5 scores. The one big identifier in his production totals shows that he made big strides in production each season at Boise State. Steady progression is always a positive when evaluating talent, especially at the skill positions.
In an effort to put his 2014 junior season numbers in context, Ajayi ranked 4th in the country in rushing (1,823) and 2nd to only Melvin Gordon in rushing touchdowns (28). Nevertheless, with the good there is also the bad. Ajayi was not immune to faults, the largest issue Ajayi had in college was his repeatedly putting the ball on the ground. In fact, Ajayi fumbled 11 times while at Boise State. In addition to the ball security issues, Ajayi brought with him a pre-existing injury to his knee. In 2011, he suffered a torn ACL. It is presumed that his pre-existing injury coupled with his heavy collegiate workload (678 carries) were the primary reasons he carried a shroud of concern for many NFL scouts. Fortunately for Ajayi, the Miami Dolphins did not let this deter their interest as they knew they wouldn’t need him as a primary facet to the offense, at least not initially. Therefore, the Miami Dolphins made Jay Ajayi the 13th pick in the 5th round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
Welcome to Miami
Ball control and pass protection are the two primary areas of focus each rookie running back, ascending to the NFL, must master before they can be trusted in real game action. For Jay Ajayi, these areas are certainly at the forefront of what he needed to focus on. However, before game-time fundamentals could be mastered, the issue of medical clearance was at the forefront of his needful things to overcome. Today, Ajayi has demonstrated he can handle the rigors at the NFL level. Although he was placed on I.R. for the first part of the season, Ajayi made his presence felt once he returned, on November 8th , against the Buffalo Bills. In short order and with limited carries, Ajayi rushed 5 times for 41 yards (good for 8.2ypc). He followed up that performance with 6 carries for 48 yards (8.0ypc) against the Philadelphia Eagles. As of today, the knee doesn’t appear too be an issue.
The Future is Ajar for Ajayi
Change is a constant function in the life of those individuals, who have chosen their profession, as a part of the NFL. The Miami Dolphin franchise is no different. In fact, there is much that will be decided in South Beach over the upcoming off-season. Not only will the Miami Dolphins brass be searching for a new head coach, there is also a strong possibility that starting running back, Lamar Miller (UFA) may not be extended an offer to return. Should Miller not return next season, Jay Ajayi will have very little competition for starting duties or would at the very least have the clearest path to leading the Miami backfield in touches.
Although, the sample size is small, glimpses of greatness are present and Ajayi has shown more than capable of being the “next man up” in the Dolphins backfield in 2016. Certainly the knee injury is a concern and most likely it will always be something to keep an eye on, especially as vigilante Dynasty footballers. However, there are very few all-purpose backs in the NFL with a skill set like Jay Ajayi and if he is handed the reins in 2016 he will be a name to watch. If you haven’t already, it’s time to place some feeler offers out there and try to acquire him before the winds of change land in Miami. At the very least he will be rated as a premium handcuff who will be a “must own” for all Lamar Miller owners. Pedigree + Potential = Pounce on him now.
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