While there is always going to be mystery when it comes to the NFL Draft, over the years the Dallas Cowboys have done their fans a bit of a favor and tipped their hands so to speak. Not only have they (not once, but twice) given us a look at their draft boards after that year’s draft was completed, but in their actions they’ve also alerted us to some key tells about their actions. In our must-read post from earlier in the off-season “< ahref= “http://dal.scout.com/story/1501993-cowboys-six-draft-tendencies-and-tells?s=112” target=”_blank”>6 Draft Tendencies and Tells'' we listed the following:
This is by no means an end-all be-all list. Morris Claiborne wasn’t invited to the Ranch, and Dallas spend two picks to acquire him. Maybe the lack of development their helped guide their hand recently, as eight of their picks over the last two years were in for official visits. In that vein, we’ll be bringing you in-depth looks at the draft candidates that Dallas schedules for visits, so that you can be better informed about the small sample size many of the next group of Cowboys will likely come from.
Name: Jay Ajayi Position: Running Back School: Boise State Height: 6’ Weight: 221 LBs Intangibles/Honors: Doak Walker Award Semi-Finalist – 2014 Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award Finalist – 2014 Third Team All-American (AP) – 2014 First Team All-Mountain West – 2013 & 2014 Academic All-Mountain West – 2012 & 2013 pSparq Score: 127.6 Z-Score: 0.5 NFL Percentile: 69.2 pSparq is an approximation of the “Sparq Score” metric invented by NIKE (with the help of former USC and current Seattle Seahawks Head Coach, Pete Carroll), designed as a way to standardize athletic testing of High School athletes and interpret their athleticism with a sport specific formula. For more on pSparq,(and the man behind the math Zach Whitman) check out 3sigmaathlete.com
Measurables vs others at his position:
Games Studied: Ole Miss, Arizona, Colorado State Run Game: Jay Ajayi is a big, tough back who is a hard man to bring down. He runs with very good balance and breaks a lot of tackles when he’s in space. When the play is designed to go north and south and his line gets it blocked up cleanly, he does a good job of running downhill, while possessing enough lateral agility to keep from taking direct hits, which helps him avoid going down on first contact a majority of the time. He’s not as sudden or explosive in his cuts as some of the other backs in this class, but once he gets going he rolls well. The biggest problem that I have with Ajayi as a runner, and the reason I’m not as high on him as others, is that his first instinct when a hole doesn’t open up is to bounce outside and attempt to outrun his opponents to the edge. He is able to have success with this when it happens against his opponents in the Mountain West, but this success will not translate to the NFL level. What compounds the problem is that Ajayi doesn’t bounce to open up lanes to allow him to cut it upfield, he is legitimately attempting to outrun guys to the sideline, and only the absolute elite athletes, have the ability to do that on Sundays. It is a recipe for negative yardage all day at the NFL level. Pass Game: One of Ajayi’s best traits is his ability to catch the ball and make plays in space after the catch. He is able to use his size and balance to break tackles and get chunk yardage out of short completions underneath. He also tracks the ball in the air well enough to be a weapon in the down field passing game on wheel routes etc. In protection Ajayi looks hesitant to step up and really wall off his guy, and looks like more of a “get-in-the-way” blocker, and you’d hope for more from a bigger back.
Conclusion/Cowboys Projection: In my mind, I struggle with the idea of attempting to change the way someone instinctively reacts to certain visual stimuli at the NFL level. Jay Ajayi’s reaction to unclean blocking is something that will hinder him in the NFL until it is adjusted, and considering the fact that the Cowboys need a runner who can have dependable success in 2015, I don’t feel comfortable with them going through the learning process with him. He plays a lot like a big back who wishes he was a small back, and that is something I’m not OK with. He will likely be drafted in the second round of the draft because although he has shortcomings at this point, his upside is the type of player that Seattle has in Marshawn Lynch, with the balance and power that he plays with. However he is one of those players I hope gets drafted between Cowboys selections because there is a major learning curve that would hinder his performance early in his career.
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