NFP Prospect Focus: Jay Ajayi
The 2015 NFL Draft may prove to be the best running back class we have had in a few years. With players like Melvin Gordon, T.J. Yeldon, Tevin Coleman and Todd Gurley we have more talented backs than we have seen in a while. One back who doesn’t get the notoriety of the others, but on tape, is in the same class as the others is Boise State’s Jay Ajayi. Ajayi is a productive, physical running back who has had outstanding production the last two years. Another thing that stands out about Ajayi is that he was born in London, England and didn’t come to the United States until he was in the fourth grade. When his family came over from England he originally lived in Maryland but eventually settled in Frisco, Texas, just outside the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Coming out of high school, he was rated as a 3-star prospect and was not highly recruited. His offer list was frthe likes of Wyoming, Minnesota, Tulane and Boise State. As a senior in high school he was listed as being 175 pounds and as productive as he was, a back that size isn’t going to get a lot of offers.
Ajayi enrolled at Boise in 2011 and red-shirted for developmental reasons. He played as a backup in 2012 and has been a starter the last two seasons. In those two years, he has run for over 3200 yards and caught 72 passes. The 175 pound recruit is now listed at 6000 – 216. Ajayi is a good athlete. He is quick footed with a very good burst while under way. I wouldn’t call him a burner, but he should easily run in the mid 4.5’s. He has very good change of direction and balance and plays with strength and power.
Boise State plays mainly from a spread formation with some pro-style formations as well. Ajayi has a slight false step, but is still very quick to the hole. As quick as he is, he shows patience and does a good job both following and setting up blocks. One thing I found interesting is that Ajayi is predominantly a left-handed runner. While he is productive going either to his left or right, he is best when going to his left. He can carry the ball in either hand, but prefers to carry the ball in his left hand. He shows good ball security and is not a fumbler.
Ajayi is equally proficient as an inside or outside runner. He has very good instinct/vision and seldom makes a poor decision. He runs with good lean, and for an averaged sized back, he has a lot of power. With his great balance, he is hard to knock off his feet and he consistently gets yards after contact. While I wouldn’t say he can “move the pile”, he gets yards on his own. He is a good jump cutter and cutback runner who finds a seam.
Outside, he does a good job waiting for blocks and has a very good burst to turn the corner. As I said above, he isn’t a burner, but he gets a lot of long runs because of his burst and run instincts. He has a good feel for where opponents are and has some elusiveness in the open field. He is a very good receiver, who is used often on screens, check downs and flares. After the catch, he gets upfield quickly. He is willing as a blocker but will need technique to be effective at the next level.
Overall, Ajayi has the traits to be a starter early in his career. While he has average size, he is a physical runner with power, vision, and instincts. Like many skill position players, his verified speed will dictate just where he gets drafted, but right now, I see him as a second to third round type of player.
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