Scouting Report: Jay Ajayi, RB, Boise State
Lynch meets Foster
It’s hard for me to watch Jay Ayaji run without thinking about Marshawn Lynch. The running style and body type similarities are hard to miss. This may not be fair to Ayaji, because Beast Mode has set a high standard in recent years, but it's an obvious comparison. And, Ajayi's upside does merit comparison to the big boys. If you focus on the positives with the Boise State workhorse (397 2014 touches!), it will be hard to avoid thinking big thoughts.
This is a naturally big-bodied back, who has legitimate three-down ability. Of those 397 touches, 50 of them were receptions. Yes, Ajayi is a power back with PPR skills. We’ve seen how valuable that combo can be in recent years with the likes of Eddie Lacy, Le’Veon Bell and Arian Foster just to name a few.
Of course, it’s never all positive, and Ayaji has a few significant red flags that NFL teams may factor in on draft day.
- Ball security
- 2011 ACL injury
You can make a strong argument that the workload has been large enough to totally discount the ACL injury suffered way back in 2011, and that’s a fair point, but ACL injuries are always worth mentioning. The workload is a concern unto itself. With running backs, we’ve seen how mileage is as important as age, if not more so.
Dane Brugler is reporting that there are new concerns with Ajayi's knee.
Bad news on #BoiseState RB Jay Ajayi. Talking to several teams and his Combine re-check did not go well. The knee is a "strong" concern— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) April 20, 2015
The ball security issue is real, and it ballooned in 2014. Of Ayaji’s 12 career fumbles, seven occurred last season, and four were lost. This is a number too big to ignore. Similar frequency at the next level would make him a non-factor.
This is a must-fix aspect of Ajayi’s game. He let's the ball get away from his body too often and if you are being targeted at the college level, you know you'll be targeted as a pro. By our eyes, this is his biggest on-field weakness.
- Height - 6’0”
- Weight - 221
- Hand - 10”
- 40 - 4.57
- Bench - 19
- Vertical Jump - 39”
- Broad Jump - 121” (10.1 ft)
- 3-Cone - 7.10
- 20Yd Shuttle - 4.10
- 60Yd Shuttle - 11.10
At the combine, when asked which NFL backs he enjoyed watching, Ayaji had a good answer, and it adds up, too. “Definitely guys like Matt Forte, DeMarco Murray, Arian Foster and Marshawn Lynch. Those are the four guys I really pattern my game around, just the style of play that they have, being complete backs and being able to be on the field all three downs. The tenacity that Marshawn runs with is something I try to put in my game as well, just fighting for every yard after contact.” This is what you see on tape if you watch a lot of Ayaji.
According to him, the NFL scouts seem to agree. “With talks with the coaches yesterday and with scouts, they tell me that my game translates very well to the NFL. That I show that I’m a three-down back, that I’m complete, that I can catch the ball out of the backfield and with work on my pass protection that I’ll be able to stay on the field on third downs as well. They say my game translates very well to the NFL.”
Ayaji also expressed remorse for his off-field issues, which pale by comparison to some of the more serious things we’ve seen over the last year. He said he’s more mature and more appreciative of the opportunity he has. He’s a kid who appears to be on the right path at this point of his career.
- Size - He fits the suit at 220 pounds and he could probably play a few pounds bigger without losing much speed.
- Feet - He has good feet for a relatively large back and he uses a wide base which allows him to make multiple cuts. He keeps his feet moving through contact and can be hard to bring down.
- Physicality - I like the way he gets after the defender. He loves the stiff arm and has a good spin move to disengage. He’s tough to get a handle on and he’s tough to tackle.
- Athleticism - As he showed in Indianapolis, this is not just a big back with soft hands. He runs well and he even jumps well. He has atypical movement ability … in a good way.
- Good receiver - He has good hands and he has good feet as I already mentioned. Ajayi is a very smooth receiver for a big back. He has some Arian Foster in him.
- Pass Protection - He’ll have to get a little better here, but he got plenty of opportunity at Boise St. and he looked solid for the most part. I doubt that this is his undoing long term. He’s a good athlete and he has the size and strength to hold up.
- Production - This guy has zero to prove from a production standpoint. He can handle the load and he can be an every down running back.
Go to DraftBreakdown if you want to get a long look at Ajayi's film.
It’s impossible to ignore Jay Ayaji’s potential as a pro back and as a fantasy back in particular. He has the ability to stay on the field in all situations. This makes him worth taking a chance on in dynasty drafts and potentially in 2015 redraft leagues depending on where he lands.
Ajayi has as much fantasy potential as any back in this year’s class because he can scare fantasy points in all situations.
- Early downs
- Passing downs
- Goal line
Here’s the takeaway, and it may surprise you.
If I knew that this back would stay healthy and clean up his ball security issues, I’d take him first in this year’s class. That’s how good this guy could be if things fall into place. As Ajayi said, “they say my game translates very well to the NFL.” It does. Now we’ll have to see who drafts him and how much early opportunity he’ll have. If he goes to a team like Green Bay, it’s a huge blow to his value. If he goes to Dallas, he could be a RB1 as a rookie. That’s the luck of the draw, or draft.
I’ll update Ajayi and all the rookies after the draft in our post-draft rookie rankings.
More 2015 Scouting Reports:
- Post Draft Rookie RB Rankings
- 2017 Pre-Draft TE Rankings
- 2017 Pre-Draft QB Rankings
- 2017 Pre-Draft RB Rankings
- 2017 Pre-Draft WR Rankings
- 2017 Pre Combine Rankings
- Postseason Cheatsheets
- Tight End Rankings Week 17
- Wide Receiver Rankings Week 17
- Running Back Rankings Week 17