All of Buffalo Rumblings' 2015 NFL Draft coverage can be found in our NFL Draft section. These scouting reports are part of our 2015 NFL Draft big board, which is also available under the "Library" header on our site's navigation bar.
- Position: Running back (RB)
- Class: Junior (redshirt)
- College: Boise State
- Ht/Wt: 6'0", 221 pounds
Jay Ajayi is the biggest wild card in this year's group of running backs. He's an athletic back with the speed, power, and balance you can dream on, but several parts of his game feel like a project to me.
Ajayi has outstanding balance when he runs. Like Todd Gurley, Ameer Abdullah, Eddie Lacy, and Marshawn Lynch, he has the natural ability to swing his feet forward as he's falling, catch himself, pivot, and continue forward. His speed and change of direction ability are both excellent; Ajayi is a former soccer player, so he learned some movement skills in his time there. Given space, he's a very tough guy to tackle, and even if you get a hand on him, he can stumble forward for another six yards with ease. He has great awareness for the sideline and will have some highlight-reel runs in his career where he tiptoes the line.
Ajayi is comfortable as a receiver, although he runs a pretty limited route tree at the moment. His running technique shows great potential, but the mentality isn't where it needs to be. When running between the tackles, shifting the tempo of his feet, and driving his legs, he can get tough yards, juke past a linebacker, and be in line for a huge gain. That being said, he has trouble finding the right gap, and all too often gives up on a play to sweep it out to the sideline, usually with poor results. His pass blocking is similarly maddening; while he has the build and strength to be a great blocker, he really struggles with identifying the right defender to block, and his technique is usually dreadful outside of the most obvious of man-to-man blocking situations.
This is the challenge I have with grading Ajayi: he has an exceptional combination of power and speed to his game, and is creative and slippery in space. He also doesn't seem to have natural vision for where a hole will open up, and he's comfortable trying to turn the corner up the sideline, which won't work in the NFL. He will also struggle to be an every down back if his pass protection technique doesn't improve, which is a problem shared by Abdullah, another one of my favorites.
Ultimately, I value a running back's vision and patience just as much as I do speed and balance, and that means that Ajayi's potential doesn't stand up to what a guy like Abdullah or Melvin Gordon can already do. I have Ajayi graded in the second round, and he's my fourth-ranked running back, behind Gurley, Abdullah, and Gordon.