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2015 NFL Draft Retrospect: Dolphins RB Jay Ajayi

Earl Campbell. O.J. Simpson. Ricky Williams. Jay Ajayi? The Miami Dolphins running back is just the fourth player in NFL history to log 200+ rushing yards in consecutive games, joining as elite of company as a running back could ever dream of. Ajayi now sits seventh in the league in rushing. He’s also has 28 less carries than any of the six players in front of him (LeSean McCoy).

Ajayi’s explosion over the past two weeks has been impressive to watch. The Dolphins have torn apart both the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Buffalo Bills on the back of Ajayi.

So how did we get here? How is a name like Jay Ajayi so new to so many people, when he had over 2300 yards from scrimmage and scored 32 touchdowns on nearly 400 carries?

The casual NFL fan has likely never heard of Ajayi, for starters. Unfortunately, it is part of the product when you are selected 149th overall in your draft class (2015). The Boise State RB declared early for the draft and fell into Day 3 after some concerns regarding the long-term viability of his knee. The reports ranged anywhere from “micro-fracture surgery will be necessary” to “the knee is bone on bone”.

An ACL tear in 2011 as a true freshman was the catalyst of Ajayi’s knee injury; but for all of the concern regarding his knee, Ajayi did log 678 carries and 73 receptions in the three seasons after the injury. It has not hindered him to date and he’s showing no signs of stopping now, having logged 55 touches in two weeks. Could anyone have seen this coming?

NDT Scouting 2015 Draft Report

ajayi

We did.

Looking over his draft profile, a number of things stand out. First of all, the previously mentioned knee injury resulted in a deduction from Ajayi’s overall score. Without it? Ajayi would have landed 16th on my 2015 draft board, just behind Eric Kendricks, Marcus Peters, Todd Gurley, Eric Rowe and Amari Cooper. Early returns after a year of learning the ropes of the NFL and sitting out the season opener vs. Seattle this year suggest Ajayi could very well be in the same tier as these players who were ranked in the top 15 of my draft board.

Ajayi’s production, size, experience and film were all plus categories. Meanwhile, his athletic profile could be described as above average, and it translated to the tape.

Seeing Ajayi create steep cuts due to high mobility throughout his lower body may make him more susceptible to injury if he’s caught on a cut, but it’s also a pleasant blend of mobility and size that doesn’t come around every day. His explosiveness at 221 is well documented with the jump scores he logged at the Combine as well.

It’s all there for the taking; he checks boxes of physical ability and natural feel for the game.

Moving forward

Where does Ajayi and the Dolphins offense go from here? Well for starters, they get a well-earned rest on the bye before kicking off a late season stretch that only features two more games against teams with winning records. If the Dolphins are going to buck the trend of finishing sub-.500 come January, it’s going to come down to Ajayi and the interior offensive line.

I would expect the Dolphins to continue to ride Ajayi, who is running with purpose and authority. It likely is not a coincidence that now that the Dolphins are featuring a healthy front with rookie Laremy Tunsil (another NDT Scouting favorite) and Mike Pouncey, the Dolphins’ rushing attack is taking flight.

Coach Adam Gase’s best trait is catering his offensive play calling and schemes to the talent available to him (see the brief Tim Tebow era for Exhibit A). It appears as though the Dolphins are finally through trying to make Ryan Tannehill into the next Dan Marino and may simply be content to let him be the next Jay Fielder. If that’s the case, expect to see Ajayi in large doses. I will try not to say “I told you so” when the production continues through November and into December.

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