Multiple analysts thought running back Jay Ajayi could go as high as the second round in the 2015 NFL Draft. Instead, a knee injury Ajayi suffered back in 2011 fueled Ajayi’s fall to the fifth round, where the Dolphins selected him with the 149th pick overall. The teams who removed Ajayi from their draft boards questioned his ability to play long-term. The Dolphins saw Ajayi’s potential, even if short-term, and considered him a “steal” in the draft.
Ajayi’s potential is undeniable. He was extremely successful in his three years at Boise State, totaling 3,796 yards on 678 carries (for an average of 5.6 yards a carry) and 50 rushing touchdowns. As if those numbers are not impressive enough, Ajayi added 73 receptions for 771 yards for five scores. Last season, he became the first player in FBS history with 1,800 yards rushing and 500 yards receiving in a season.
On top of Ajayi’s productivity both in and out of the backfield, he will most likely find his immediate niche in Miami as a pass protector. Current Dolphins starter Lamar Miller has struggled in protecting quarterback Ryan Tannehill so far in his short career, and Ajayi is an upgrade over Miller in this area of the game. Ajayi also offers the ability to run through the tackles, where he stays low to the ground and uses his 6-foot, 220 pound frame to bounce off tacklers. His running style is similar to former Dolphin Knowshon Moreno, who had tremendous success last season against the New England Patriots before suffering a season-ending injury the following week.
I believe Lamar Miller will remain the starter for the first half of the season, with Ajayi getting a fair share of carries and appearing on passing downs. However, because Lamar Miller is entering the final year of his contract, Ajayi may replace Miller towards season’s end, especially if the Dolphins can’t reach an agreement with Miller on a new contract. Keep a close watch on Jay Ajayi this year, as the rookie looks to prove his doubters wrong. The Dolphins may have just found their next featured back.