In summary, Ajayi has elite ability as a one-cut runner. He is also has excellent receiving skills. I suspect he will compete with Damien Williams for the change of pace back and third down duties. He is going to need to work on his discipline and knowing what the plays are designed to do. He will also need to work on squaring up his pads for hits before he will be able to be a featured back in the NFL. Look for Miami to use him in some of their read option packages and third and long packages in his rookie season as they try to develop the rest of his game. He seems to be a very cool guy off the field with a unique accent (he was born in London to Nigerian parents). He seems to be smart and dedicated so there is a solid possibility that with some good coaching on his fundamentals, he will be an important contributor to the team in the comings seasons.
This column was written by Chad Ronnebaum. Follow him on Twitter @Gofins4SB.
The Miami Dolphins drafted running back Jay Ajayi out of Boise State University this year, and he has generated a surprising amount of buzz for a player taken in the fifth round. Some people are expecting Ajayi to unseat Damien Williams as the team’s number two running back. Some people have went as far to say they think Ajayi will replace Lamar Miller as the featured back next season. I decided to break down some film of Ajayi to get a feel for what this excitement is all about. I have to say going into this film review that Ajayi played for a school in a smaller conference, so there is limited film of him playing against high level college competition. I think it is important to keep in mind that there is a big talent gap between teams in the Mountain West conference compared to the NFL. So you have to take that into consideration if you are simply looking at college highlights of Ajayi and getting excited.
I spent a lot of time watching film on the Boise State vs Nevada game because Nevada controls the line of scrimmage frequently during a back and forth game. In my opinion, Miami is not going to be able to the run the ball on a consistent basis in the AFC East. Every team in the Division features a dominant defensive line, so I expect running the ball will tough sledding. I thought it might be a good sample to see how Ajayi does when his blocking is breaking down.
After watching film on Ajayi, I can say that that he features exceptional quickness and balance. I suspect the ability he has to use a one cut, up-field, and go move will be effective against a defense later in a game as players get tired. He also really pressures a defense to stay in their lanes and not over-pursue due to his elite cutback ability.
On the negative side, he absolutely has to learn to lean down and get his pad level square on hits. He almost never does this in the open field and there are several plays you can watch him get blown up on hits by smaller players because he just stays upright while running into contact. He will not survive a season and will be open to fumbles if does this against NFL safeties and linebackers. He also relies on his quickness too much and will often turn to try and escape a tackler rather than putting his shoulder down and driving forward for an extra yard or two. He will not be able to outrun NFL Linebackers consistently to the sideline, and will need to be aware of his in-game situations. Sometimes in tight games a running back is better served to drive into the linebacker and get a yard or two on first and second down.
In my honest opinion, he is not a power back that will be effective on third-and-one plays. Rather he will be much more effective as a change of pace and third down back featuring his catching and blocking ability. He should also be a highly effective weapon in Miami’s read option plays. With Ryan Tannehill putting pressure on defenses by forcing them to respect containment, it will be a nightmare to try to contain Tannehill’s running, Ajayi’s wicked quick cutbacks, and Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills in the boundary with their run after the catch abilities. Miami should really be able to spread teams out and expose unathletic linebackers and safeties in zone defenses. When you throw in what DeVante Parker and Jordan Cameron can do in the vertical game against cheating safeties, Miami should really have the personal to improve their point production on offense in those read option schemes.