Summary: In a typical year, Ajayi would be in the running to be the top running back in the NFL draft. However, the 2015 class has two rare running back prospects in Georgia's Todd Gurley and Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon. There are a lot of running back-needy teams, with Gurley and Gordon expected to go in the first round, Ajayi should hear his name called quickly on the second night of the 2015 NFL Draft.
After running for 548 yards and four touchdowns as a freshman, Ajayi broke out for Boise State in 2013 as he averaged 5.7 yards per carry for 1,425 yards with 18 touchdowns. He also snatched 22 receptions for 222 yards and a score. It could have been a bigger season, but the coaching staff made Ajayi spend significant time on the sideline out of frustration with some fumbles.
Ajayi was excellent for Boise State during 2014. He averaged 5.4 yards per carry for 1,689 yards with 25 touchdowns. Through the air, the redshirt junior had 45 receptions for 536 yards and four touchdowns. He improved his ball security and showed the ability to excel against elite defenses. In the season opener, Ajayi played well against Ole Miss' land-shark defense and matched up well against the Rebels' fast stop unit. He ran for 86 yards on 20 carries in that contest while catching 12 passes for 93 yards and a touchdown.
There is a lot to like about Ajayi. As a runner, he is quick and strong. Ajayi has a burst to hit the hole and accelerates to the second level in an instant. He possesses excellent balance and feet that allow him to weave his way around defenders, stay upright and step out of tackles. Ajayi is also sufficiently powerful to run through tackles and pick up yards after contact. Beyond the power, he is quick enough to run away from linebackers and get separation when running passing routes.
Ajayi is a well-balanced runner. He isn't overly physical, and isn't a speed demon like Chris Johnson in his prime. However, Ajayi is a running back who does everything well. The only real weakness for the NFL is whether he can continue to improve his ball security.
Ajayi looks like he has a lot of ability to help in an NFL passing attack. He is a natural receiver with soft hands and is dangerous in the open field. Ajayi has displayed pass protection potential as well. He should be a legitimate three-down starter in the NFL once he learns his team's blitz protection scheme and is ready to protect his quarterback. That should happen within the first couple of years of his career.
In the 2015 NFL Draft, Ajayi looks solid as a second-round pick. He has the ability to be a feature running back and three-down starter. Ajayi could end up being a Pro Bowl running back.
Player Comparison: Frank Gore. In terms of running style, Ajayi reminds me of Gore. They both have the speed to rip off yards in chunks with the strength to beat defenses with power. Gore has had an excellent career since being a third-round pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, and he slid in the draft because of an injury. Ajayi also looks like a second-day pick, though probably a round earlier.
NFL Matches: Minnesota, Oakland, Miami, New York Jets, New England, Detroit, Houston, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, San Diego, Arizona
In the AFC South, the Jaguars look like a prime landing spot for Ajayi. Jacksonville needs a starting running back badly. Denard Robinson is just a second-string change-of-pace back, while Toby Gerhart was a disappointment. Ajayi would be a perfect fit in Greg Olson's offense.
The Texans got a great 2014 season out of Arian Foster, but could use another running back as the veteran has had injury issues every season. Houston will probably miss out on a top-tier quarterback in the 2015 NFL Draft, so depth in the team's rushing attack is mandatory. Staying in the AFC South, the Colts could use a runner for Andrew Luck as Frank Gore is just a temporary fill-in.
There are a lot of other teams that could use help at running back elsewhere, too. The Vikings could be a good fit for Ajayi as a potential replacement for Adrian Peterson if the veteran is successful in forcing his way out of Minnesota. Ajayi and Jerick McKinnon could give Minnesota a nice backfield.
The Raiders need another running back as Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden are gone. Latavius Murray ran well for Oakland in 2013, but the organization could use another back to pair with him.
Detroit had one of the worst rushing offenses in the NFL in 2014 and adding a feature back would make sense. With his receiving ability, Ajayi would be a perfect long-term replacement for Reggie Bush.
In the AFC East, Miami could use a back to pair with Lamar Miller, and Ajayi would make a lot of sense as he would fit Joe Philbin's offense well. New England has used a number of backs, but it would make sense for the organization to find a stable presence for the backfield. The Jets tried to see if Chris Johnson had anything left last seaosn, but clearly he was done. New York could use a another back to pair with Chris Ivory.
San Diego could use a back like Ajayi. He would be a good runner and receiver to pair with Philip Rivers. The Cardinals want a back to pair with Andre Ellington.