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Jay Ajayi Fantasy Football Stock Profile: Dolphins RB ready to splash into high-end RB1 territory

Jay Ajayi

Position: Running Back

Team: Miami Dolphins

Talent: 9.5/10

In Week 6 of the 2016 NFL Season, Jay Ajayi recorded his first 20+ carry game and never looked back. For the first five weeks of the season, Arian Foster had been the Dolphins lead back until an injury and subsequent retirement handed the lead back role to Ajayi. In that Week 6 game, Ajayi carried the ball 25 times for 204(!) yards and 2 touchdowns. He averaged 8.2 yards per carry in the game and burst onto the national scene. He would run for 214 yards the next week, and then 111 in the team’s next game following a bye. Ajayi had seemingly come out of nowhere, but one thing was undeniable: This back has mad talent.

Ajayi has good size for a running back at 6’0 229 lbs and he has nimble feet allowing him to pull off nice cuts/jukes to get him away from defenders. He possesses great speed and has the second gear, which allows him to get to the second level when he finds an open hole. His receiving game has reportedly “increased 200%” according to offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen. The opportunity for Ajayi to expand on his role from last season is very enticing and we’d love to see him more involved in the passing game after catching only 27 balls in 2016.

Opportunity + Usage: 10/10

The sexiest part about Ajayi’s potential 2017 season are the rumored number of touches head coach Adam Gase has thrown around. The idea of Ajayi being given 300+ carries in a season is mouth watering after seeing what David Johnson, Ezekiel Elliott and DeMarco Murray all did with those type of touches. Miami seems to be developing into a run heavy team that will lean on Ajayi and use QB Ryan Tannehill as more of a complimentary piece. Would you rather have Tannehill drop back to pass, or hand the rock to Ajayi? That’s what I thought. What also makes Ajayi’s score in this category so high is the lack of a skilled handcuff to steal carries from him. Sure the backups will get some work in here and there, but they won’t be a major enough factor to really impact Ajayi’s numbers.

As mentioned in the talent section, Ajayi has greatly improved his receiving skills. This is big time news for Ajayi’s stock as this now allows him to be a true three-down back who will only enhance on last year’s receiving numbers. Back in college, Ajayi showed that he had the talents to be a threat in both the running and receiving game so there’s no reason for him to not repeat that success now that he’s an established NFL running back.

Coaching Scheme: 9.5/10

Despite having offensive coordinator Christensen on staff, head coach Adam Gase still calls the shots with the offense. Gase appears to be all-in on Ajayi which is great for 2017’s outlook. During his previous tenures with Denver and Chicago as the offensive coordinator, Gase turned his lead back into fantasy worthy options despite being in pass-first offenses. In 2013 and 2014 with the Broncos, Gase had both Knowshon Moreno and CJ Anderson break out into solid backs. Both backs had career years under Gase’s play calling. Gase then spent a year in Chicago where the aging Matt Forte put up a respectable stat line, before the tides started to shift towards young Jeremy Langfords favor.

The evidence is there that Gase can produce a legitimate RB1 in his offense, but Ajayi has the skill set to be the best running back he’s ever coached. It was a little different back in Denver having Peyton Manning run the show, and then Jay Cutler in Chicago, but luckily for Ajayi, Tannehill is still an average QB at best, so Miami won’t be tailoring the offense through the air. You allow Ajayi to run rampant and have Tannehill move the sticks when necessary.

Surrounding Talent: 8.5/10

Miami’s offense seems to have a lot more potential than what we’ve come to see the past few years. As I noted earlier, Tannehill isn’t that good of an NFL QB. He was a WR his first two years in college before finally switching the QB at Texas A&M his junior year. Luckily, Tannehill just has to hand the ball off to Ajayi or throw him short passing routes. The rest of the offense in Miami has a pretty high talent level, but just never seem to live up to all the hype. With receivers Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker, Miami possesses what should be two stud receivers to work with. Mix in Kenny Stills who seems to catch a 40+ yard touchdown every other game, and there’s the talent there to form a formidable offensive attack. Miami also added Julius Thomas this off season to give Tannehill even more weapons to work with. So you can’t say the Dolphins don’t have the pieces, because there’s clearly plenty of talent to put a scare into opposing defenses.

The biggest hit to Ajayi’s surrounding talent though is the offensive line. Last year ProFootballFocus graded them as the 30th ranked o-line — which really took a hit with the loss of All-Pro center Mike Pouncey. The offensive line needs to do a much better job in 2017, which sounds funny at first based on how good Ajayi’s numbers were in 2016. If this line can put it together and improve this season, Ajayi’s numbers could look even scarier.

Risk: 8/10

Ajayi has a solid risk score here with a minimal injury history during his NFL career. He initially slipped in the draft over concerns about his knee as well as some off-field issues. Those were years ago however, so concerns over those issues have been put to rest. Where the real risk lies is in his potential workload. Do we know if Ajayi is ready to handle a 300+ carry season? Can his body handle that kind of pressure and work? There’s also the question in the back of people’s minds about whether or not Ajayi will be a flash in the pan. We’ve seen it before with other running backs, but Ajayi does not appear to be one of those individuals. *cough cough* Steve Slaton *cough cough*.

Overall Stock Score: 45.5/50 = 91 A-

Ceiling Projection / Scenario: Ajayi has one of the higher ceiling’s for running backs based on his coach’s desire to get him the ball even more. If all goes to plan, he’ll be seeing 300+ carries as the main weapon in Miami’s offense. He’s also used much more in the passing game as his receiving skills have increased tenfold. Ajayi is locked in as an elite RB1 all year and finishes as a top five RB in 2017.

310 carries, 1,500 yards, 12 TDs; 50 catches, 250 yards

Floor Projection/Scenario (excluding injury):  Ajayi turns out to be a one hit wonder and falls off a cliff in his second year as the Dolphins’ starter. The Miami offense struggles as a whole and can’t efficiently move the chains on a consistent basis. Backup running backs Damian Williams and Kenyan Drake start to show more promise and begin eating into Ajayi’s carries and goal line work. Owners who drafted him in the first round end up furious at their selection with a running back who’s struggling to put up RB2 numbers.

240 carries, 860 yards, 7 TDs; 30 catches, 200 yards

Bottom Line: Ajayi is a very good prospect because of his high ceiling paired with a relatively high floor. The floor projection above is the absolute worst case that could happen, and even that seems relatively low. He honestly has a better chance of hitting the ceiling projection than the floor. Ajayi should be a stud in 2017 and owners who target him later in the first round should get a solid return on their investment. Ajayi should be locked into RB1 territory all year while improving on his already solid 2016.

2017 Predicted Stat Line: 290 carries, 1,400 yards, 11 TDs; 40 catches, 225 yards

We used this formula to nail David Johnson and Ezekiel Elliott in 2016. Check back for more Fantasy Stock Profiles throughout the off-season to stay ahead of your fantasy football league.

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