With the draft coming up at the end of the month, we will offer up a breakdown of players at positions of need for the Dallas Cowboys.
Boise State running back Jay Ajayi
Height: 5-foot-11 3/4 Weight: 221
ESPN Insider rank: No. 4 running back, No. 49 overall
Games viewed: Ole Miss, Arizona, Colorado State
Scouting report: The Cowboys clearly like Boise State players with Orlando Scandrick, Tyrone Crawford and DeMarcus Lawrence. There is a chip-on-the-shoulder feel to their games and Ajayi is no different. He runs hard. Effort is not a problem, but there are things he will need to adjust to at the NFL level.
His best asset is his speed. He moves extremely well. He has some make-them-miss to his game that some of the other top runners don’t have. Against Ole Miss, he was able to stop in the hole, make a jump cut to his right and use his speed to outrun defenders to the edge, turning a minus play into a nice gain. Of the top backs I’ve seen so far he makes the best use of the stiff arm.
He took some big hits in the game and keeps the ball away from his body just a little too much for my liking. His speed was on display on an up-the-middle touchdown run against Arizona and he did a nice job running behind his line later, picking and choosing his spots.
He doesn’t push the pile like some other runners, but he showed some toughness against Colorado State, making three tacklers miss on a short catch. He can start and stop on a dime and get to his top speed quickly. Once he breaks through the line he goes a good job of changing his pace to get the defense off balance.
He has good hands and did a good job catching the ball in traffic, but his pass protection is weak. He was a one-hit wonder. He would hit a defender and stop moving. He also struggled running around the goal line but I don’t know if that was scheme or a lack of movement up front.
Biggest concern: Can he trust the scheme? I had more questions about him than any of the backs I’ve viewed so far in Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon and Tevin Coleman. He likes to bounce everything and rely on his speed and that’s not going to work as much at the NFL level. While I liked what he did as a pass catcher, he needs a lot of work as a pass protector. As much as he would initiate contact as a runner, he was too laid back as a pass protector.
What ESPN Insider says about his power/balance: Has good size and runs hard. Runs behind his pads and shows good initial pop. Pinball type runner with outstanding natural balance to bounce off defenders (who don't wrap) and spin for extra yards at end of runs. However, he does not have great lower-body strength to drive through contact. The more tape studied, the more apparent it is that he fails to break enough tackles in one-on-one opportunities. Not a great short-yardage runner and not a great pile pusher.
Cowboys fit: The Cowboys have a clear interest in him. By having him come in as a Dallas Day invite and not a national invite they could work him out at Valley Ranch. He impressed a lot of people in his visit. There is a lot to like about his game but he is raw. Running backs coach Gary Brown is a good teacher, so he could mold Ajayi. One problem for the Cowboys is that their pick in the first round (No. 27) is too early and their second rounder (No. 60) is probably too late to get him.