Monday, February 23, 2015

2015 NFL Draft #27 - Jay Ajayi, RB, Boise State

I have never been a scout or a NFL General Manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football. By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better. It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can.
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Boise State running back Jay Ajayi (27) breaks loose for a touchdown during the first quarter of the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football game in Glendale, Ariz., on Wednesday Dec. 31, 2014. Boise State won 38-30.
Jay Ajayi, RB , Boise State - 6'0, 221 - Junior
Every draft, there are a couple players that are your cup of tea.  You try not to get caught up in this personal appeal and let it outweigh the number of components that could be considered beyond "he is my kind of player", but invariably, that concept breaks all ties in a beauty pageant like the NFL Draft.
So, allow me to confess, when I pop on a tape of Boise State from 2014 and watch this Metroplex product (although he was born in England to Nigerian parents and lived in Maryland before playing ball in Plano and Frisco), I automatically default to "I want to go get him for my team" mode.  He is one of a number of top RBs in this draft and enough to make you think that if you are considering a major contract with your current RB, perhaps the solution is in this group of 21-year old college stars that will be available in the top few rounds.  For Ajayi, I looked at his games against Mississippi, Colorado State, and Arizona.
What I liked:  When you talk about a guy who can do it all, you have to look at Ajayi as maybe the best example in this draft.  Unlike Melvin Gordon, Ajayi is maybe the best receiving RB in this entire group (and that says something).  Unlike Tevin Coleman, Ajayi's inside runs are great, showing you that he will get you 5 yards between the tackles on a regular basis.  Unlike Todd Gurley, he is completely healthy.  Unlike Ameer Abdullah, he is the perfect size to take on the NFL game.  He just does everything well.  I like his burst to the outside and I really like his vision where he can find a solution to many problems in mid-play.  He can beat you to the corner, but he can also go "Beast Mode" or "J-Train" and just run you over.  He has superior balance and has demonstrated a multitude of times that he will not go down on first contact.  He is a real workhorse who does not look fun to tackle as the game goes on.  He really is good at squeezing through smaller holes and finding positive space inside, while remaining a smaller target for linebackers.
What I did not like:   There is a hint of ball security issues, but again, when a guy has 400 touches in a season, there will be a fumble or two for the type of runner that fights to the whistle.  He also is a product of a zone read type scheme, so we must at least consider the fact that with a QB like Tony Romo, any benefit that Coleman or Ajayi get from that deception will not be available in the NFL (or at least in Dallas).  It is tough to say that he has the same breakaway gear as Coleman or Gurley, but not many do. He did have a bout or two with immaturity as a freshman at Boise, but it seems he has grown into a mature prospect.
Summary:  I might have tipped my hands early, but I really like this guy to a point that if there was one guy you might cheer to fall to #60 in Round 2, this could be him.  He can just do it all and looks like a Day 1 starter who can pass protect, receive, and run inside or outside.  He looks the part of a legitimate NFL starter who will compete for the 3rd guy off the board.  I don't see a lot to not like about him and he has a competitive level about him that is very admirable and contagious.  I continue to say that this is a group of running backs that is as deep and talented as many of us can recall, but Ajayi is a quality player that deserves to be in that conversation for 3rd best behind Gurley and Gordon.

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