Former Boise State running back Jay Ajayi had enough of a load on his shoulders during the 2014 football season.
Last week, the load got a little bigger. The NFL announced its official list of NFL Combine invitees, and Ajayi was the only Bronco on the list. His invite to the annual event was not surprising in the slightest: The Texas native ran for 1,823 yards and also had more than 500 yards receiving. He scored 32 total touchdowns in the process, which was tops in all of college football.
Now the question remains of where Ajayi will get drafted. Ajayi certainly passes the eye-ball test: He’s listed at 6-feet, 216 pounds and was a highlight reel for the 12-2 Broncos this past season. But with seven rounds of action and the NFL being a passing league, a player with his production might have to wait to hear his name called.
I reached out to NFL Draft analyst Walter Cherepinsky, who started the site WalterFootball.com back in 1999 and has become one of the Internet’s most well known mock-drafters. Cherepinsky doesn't think Ajayi will be a first-round pick. He has him as a third-round pick currently, going to the Detroit Lions, with the possibility of making it into the second round.
“His strengths are catching the ball out of the backfield and generating yards after contact,” Cherepinsky said. “Being able to effectively catch like that entering the NFL will definitely have teams considering him on Day 2 (of the draft) because he'll be able to play on third down.”
One thing holding him back is fumbling issues, according to Cherepinsky. The stats back that notion up to an extent as well: Ajayi lost seven fumbles last season, which was third among all running backs in the country. He sees it as a fixable problem, though, in the mold of former All-Pro Tiki Barber. In fact, he thinks that’s a decent comparison.
“His weakness is ball security, which is a fixable trait (as Tiki Barber once learned),” Cherepinsky said. “I'm not good with comparisons, but Barber might be a good one. I don't think he'll make it into the first round, given that the running back position has devalued, but he could go in the second round. I would say Round 3 is the safest bet.”