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Scout Report: Jay Ajayi, RB, Boise State

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Scouting Blog - Scout Report: Benardrick McKinney, LB, Mississippi State 1

Name: Jay Ajayi
Age: 21
Position: RB
College: Boise State
Height: 5’11 ¾
Weight: 221
Grade: 2nd Round
Comparison: Marshawn Lynch, Rashard Mendenhall

Athletic Ability

For a back of his size, Jay Ajayi is a solid all-around athlete.

He has quick feet and is surprisingly agile in the open field, as evidenced by his 4.10 short shuttle and 7.10 three-cone times. He is able to stop on a dime and make defenders miss in the open field. Ajayi is able to accelerate through the hole quickly and with authority. He also displays above average balance, which allows him to shed would-be tacklers for extra yards.

Unfortunately, Ajayi lacks the second gear to burst through the secondary and take a long run the distance for a touchdown. Overall, Ajayi is an above average athlete, especially for a 220 pound back.

Competitiveness/Leadership

Ajayi is a physical runner, and he finishes runs with purpose. If he has the option of going out-of-bounds or lowering his shoulder along the sideline for three more yards, he will take the latter.

Fumbling was an issue for him this past season, so that is a red flag. Jay Ajayi was arrested for stealing sweatpants in 2011, but has a clean record since then.

He reportedly has a great work ethic and is well-respected in the locker room. It is also worth noting that he was also a standout soccer player and considered turning pro before turning to football.

Mental Alertness

The mental aspect of the game comes fairly easy to Ajayi. He is a patient runner, and allows his blocks to set up before attacking. He displays good vision and will typically find the open lane. He is also an above average improviser, and has shown the ability to turn a broken play into a decent gain.

He will need to improve his recognition as a blocker, as he was not asked to block too much at Boise State.

Strength/Explosion

This part of Ajayi’s game is sort of weird to evaluate. Ajayi is well-built, runs with a low pad level, and is not afraid to drop his shoulder and fight for extra yards. However, he does not break as many tackles as one might expect.

For some reason, the leg drive is not always there to push the pile. Having said that, he has more strength than the average back, and his tough running style makes him a pain for defenders to tackle. Ajayi is a fairly explosive runner, as he is able to stick his foot in the dirt and burst up-field in a hurry. He also has a violent jump cut that allows him to avoid defenders and change directions quickly.

Position Skills

As a pure runner, there might be other backs that are better than Jay Ajayi in this class. However, his all-around skill set is what sets him apart from everyone other than Gurley and Gordon.

He is relatively inexperienced as a pass protector, but he has the size and willingness to be satisfactory in this area. Where he really excels is as a receiver out of the backfield. Ajayi is a natural pass catcher, and he is dangerous when he is able to get in the open field. He sets up defenders well when running routes and understands his role as a safety-valve for his quarterback. He is an ideal check-down option.

As a runner, he has the elusiveness, toughness, size, and strength to be a workhorse back at the next level. He had nearly 400 touches at Boise State last year, which shows he is durable and able to handle a big workload. He has a tendency to bounce a lot of runs to the outside, and can get a little too east/west at times.

For the most part, however, Ajayi has a great skill set for the NFL level.

Overall

It seems like there is a consensus top two at the running back position in this draft class: Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon. Personally, I believe that Jay Ajayi has separated himself from the rest of the pack to claim the third spot. His ability to be a legitimate three-down back at the next level will be coveted by NFL teams.

Ajayi draws a lot of Marshawn Lynch comparisons, and the running styles are fairly similar. He possesses the same type of swagger that Lynch has, and is underrated in terms of receiving and quickness. He might not have quite the same power that Lynch has (and not many do), but his mentality is the same nonetheless.

Should the Dallas Cowboys pass on a running back in the first round, Jay Ajayi should be at the top of the list if he falls to number 60. He is a great fit in the Cowboys’ system because of his vision and toughness, as well as his third down capabilities.

Ajayi should be a reliable option from day one.


Jared is a born and raised Cowboys fan with an affinity for the NFL Draft. He has been a freelance scout since 2011, and hopes to work in a front office someday.

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1 Comment
  • http://twitter.com/FromJDtoFantasy Greg

    @Jared_Katz30 love this guy. Would be an awesome value in rounds 2 or 3 after we scoop up a CB in Rd 1.

NFL Draft

Upgrading LG Position Should be Cowboys Top Draft Priority

Brian Martin

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Cowboys Draft Priority Should be Upgrading the LG Position

The Dallas Cowboys are quite proud about the offensive line they have put together over the years. Their OL is headlined by three former first-round draft picks who have turned into All-Pro players, and one player who should've been a first-round pick if not for an unfortunate situation that had nothing to do with him that took place during the draft.

This offensive unit is the backbone of the entire Dallas Cowboys team, but some changes need to be made. No, not the personnel per se. Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, and La'el Collins will all return to their starting roles, but that only makes up 80% of the unit. Who makes up the other 20% is probably the biggest question that needs to be answered before the 2018 season kicks off.

Yes, I'm talking about the vacancy at the left guard position.

Jonathan Cooper

Dallas Cowboys LG Jonathan Cooper

Last season the Dallas Cowboys tried to plug the hole with Chaz Green and Jonathan Cooper. The Green experiment failed miserably and Cooper was serviceable at best. I don't know about you, but I think it's time to find a long-term solution and solidify the best offensive line for years to come.

The best and cheapest way to address the LG position is with one of the Cowboys draft picks.

Sure, the Dallas Cowboys could re-sign Jonathan Cooper to another affordable contract, but I have zero faith he can remain healthy. That's been the knock against him his entire professional career. I was actually surprised he lasted as long as he did in 2017.

With the 19th pick overall in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys are in a good position to have their choice of the best offensive guards in this draft class. Isaiah Wynn of Georgia, Will Hernandez of UTEP, James Daniels of Iowa, and Billy Price of Ohio State are all players under consideration here.

All four of these players are excellent Cowboys draft targets, and they can't really go wrong with any of them. They all bring a little something different to the table, but each would be an upgrade who would help get this team back on track.

You see, I think finding a new LG is the top Cowboys draft priority. I don't know if there is another position that can be filled by a rookie and contribute more to the team success in 2018.

This is especially true considering what the Cowboys like to do offensively. They want to establish the running game and control the clock. They weren't really able to do that in 2017 due to Tyron Smith's injuries in the revolving door at left guard.

Cowboys Draft Target: UTEP OL Will Hernandez

UTEP OL Will Hernandez

We all saw what happened when they were forced to get away from their bread and butter. This is not an offense that is currently equipped to rely on the passing game to put points on the board. It's just not who they are.

That is why finding a new LG is so important. Not only would it help upgrade the running game, but it would also help keep things going if Tyron Smith continues to struggle with injuries.

It's much easier to plug and play a backup left tackle who can block in the running game than it is to find one who can pass protect as well as Smith.

I know opinions will vary, but I truly believe that it's in everyone's best interest to draft a starting caliber left guard. And if you want to know my opinion, I would do it with their first-round draft pick by taking Will Hernandez.

Do you think LG is the Dallas Cowboys top draft priority?


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NFL Draft

Cowboys Draft Target: BYU LB Fred Warner

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Draft Target: BYU LB Fred Warner

The 2018 NFL Draft class isn't exactly full of difference-making linebackers. At the top of the class sits Roquan Smith, the Georgia LB who many feel is a franchise changer. Then there is Virginia Tech's Tremaine Edmunds, the athletic freak who has risen up draft boards. After the top two, however, there is some confusion about the rest of the class.

My third linebacker would be Alabama's Rashaan Evans, but after watching more tape over the last couple of months, BYU's Fred Warner is LB4 on my board. I recently wrote up a full scouting report on Warner for Slant Sports, in which I detailed what exactly I like about Warner's game.

During his time at BYU Warner doubled as an EDGE defender and off ball linebacker. He often found himself in-line and defending the line of scrimmage, and did a good job when asked to do so. In my opinion, he projects to be a WILL in the NFL, an off-ball linebacker the Cowboys could certainly use.

At 6'3" 235 pounds Warner is a big and fluid athlete who looks extremely comfortable in space. Fred Warner possesses impressive processing ability and the closing speed to come down hill and make plays after reading and recognizing what the offense is doing.

nfldraft2018 fred warner 3 - Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

"On this play we see an example of Fred Warner’s ability to read, react, and close on the ball carrier. Warner stays disciplined in his run fits at first, reading the hats of the linemen as the hole forms. As the runner bounces, Warner begins to break down hill to make the play."

Fred Warner is also rather solid in coverage. Considering his length and quickness, Warner can cover a lot of ground in zone coverage. Every now and then he made some splashy type plays in coverage as well, such as this one against UCLA.

nfldraft2018 fred warner 2 - Streamable

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"Warner gets into his drop smoothly here, reading his keys and processing the play in front of him. Then, as soon as the quarterback lets go of the ball, Warner jumps on the route and makes a great play on the ball. Considering his size, this is an outstanding rep from Fred Warner."

So where would the Cowboys have to take Warner? By my estimation, 81st overall is the sweet spot for Fred Warner. There are a lot of decent linebacker prospects bunched together late day two and early day three, but I think Warner has separated himself from the pack.

I believe Warner is a better prospect than a Josey Jewell or Leighton Vander Esch, despite the love they have been getting during this draft season. I understand those who would say someone like Jewell better fits what the Cowboys need in a MIKE linebacker, but Fred Warner's hybrid versatility and skills at WILL make him very valuable as well.

The Cowboys could use some depth at linebacker, and Fred Warner would immediately provide that for Dallas. And, depending on the health of Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith, Warner may be asked to play a lot during his rookie season.


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NFL Draft

Difference-Making Prospects Linked to Cowboys in Latest Mock Drafts

Sean Martin

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Difference-Making Prospects Linked to Cowboys in Latest Mock Drafts 1

The next time we take a look at these mock drafts to see who various members of the media have landing with the Cowboys, it will be on the week of the NFL Scouting Combine. This 2018 Draft process is charging towards Dallas, and with it we have some new prospects to add to the radar this week.

After introducing you to two secondary players last week, along with a consensus top-10 player in Georgia's Roquan Smith, here is the latest crop of college talent to be mocked to America's Team.

Difference-Making Prospects Linked to Cowboys in Latest Mock Drafts

CBS Sports: Calvin Ridley, WR - Alabama

This mock draft comes to us from Chris Trapasso, with the most complete receiver in the draft falling to the Cowboys.

"The Cowboys are thrilled with Ridley still being available. While he's not the biggest wideout and has a skinny frame, he's a dynamic route runner and has the deep speed Dallas has to inject into its offense."

Analysis:

Calvin Ridley may be the one WR in this draft too good for me to pass up on in the first round. As I've studied deeper into this class, the amount of talent available in the later rounds looks much more attractive for a Cowboys team that remains set on at least two starting receivers.

Should this WR depth deter the first 18 teams in the draft order from taking Alabama's Calvin Ridley though, this is a trigger that has to be pulled in Dallas.

Rotoworld: Maurice Hurst, DT - Michigan

Josh Norris' mock draft produces a familiar outcome for the Cowboys, but the talent he passes up on to mock Hurst to this team is certainly interesting.

"I know Vita Vea is on the board, but in Hurst the team is getting more of an upfield, disruptive lineman. He has special moments off the snap, creating instant penetration and totally destroying the offense’s plan."

Analysis:

Yawn. It feels inevitable that at least one mock draft each week will have the Cowboys doubling up on Michigan defensive linemen in the first round - upgrading the 3T position with Hurst. While I'm not dismissing Hurst's talent in any way, I don't see a consistent enough player (nor enough of a difference maker) to warrant the 19th overall pick.

Should the Cowboys lose RFA David Irving, there is no doubt they'll be in need of a disruptive defensive tackle. As the roster stands now though, the Cowboys' bigger need is at the 1T position - which Norris ignores despite the best player at that position (Vea) being available.

Bleacher Report: Tremaine Edmunds, LB - Virginia Tech

Like Chris Trapasso's mock, Mike Tanier's latest draft projection has another top player sliding the Cowboys' way.

"Tremaine Edmunds has been a tricky player to slot in this mock draft. He has limitless upside, but at a position (off-the-ball linebacker) that few teams prioritize in the first round anymore. He should be a Bobby Wagner/Luke Keuchly-caliber contributor by 2019, but whoever drafts him will experience some growing pains as the not-yet-20-year-old Edmunds learns not to get sucked into play action or get caught flat-footed in coverage."

Analysis:

An argument could be made for Tremaine Edmunds as the best LB in this draft. At the very least, he is in elite company atop the board with Roquan Smith. Both prospects play the WILL position, which Tanier correctly points out as one that is devalued currently.

This shouldn't stop Smith from having his name called early in the 2018 Draft, and I have my doubts about it doing the same for Edmunds. A freak athlete out of Virginia Tech, Edmunds will be just 19 years old at the time of April's draft.

This bodes exceptionally well for the Cowboys, who are of course preparing to start Sean Lee at WILL once again. Drafting Edmunds may go against this team's philosophy of drafting immediate starters, along with first round linebackers.

With all that said, Tremaine Edmunds is not a player I could pass up on with the 19th overall pick.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

The NFL Scouting Combine will give teams and draft analysts a much better evaluation of where all of these prospects truly belong. Through three weeks of doing this series, I can't say that any player mocked to the Cowboys has been a reach.

Instead, the likes of Smith, Edmunds, and Ridley could soon disappear entirely from the majority of Cowboys mock drafts moving forward. The bigger picture of who actually will be available to Dallas, and who they're targeting in the first round, is slowly coming into focus.

Tell us what you think about "Difference-Making Prospects Linked to Cowboys in Latest Mock Drafts" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!


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