1272 yards and a 4.89 yards per carry average in his sophomore season and all the Miami Dolphins got for him was a 4th rounder.
When I woke up the morning of the trade deadline, I had a bunch of messages and updates telling me about this trade and asking how I felt. After I gave myself some time to wake up and process the trade I realized that, as bad as it may seem in the short term this was the right play in the long run.
Let’s go all the way back to the 2015 NFL draft. Jay Ajayi, a bruising back out of Boise State University, gets drafted in the 5th round by the Miami Dolphins and I hear one of the reporters say teams had a first round grade on him based on pure talent. I love to hear things like that because I am usually not one that lets off-field issues decide what I think of a player. What you do for me on the field week in and week out is what I look for, unless it’s extreme.
Hearing that the reason he fell so far was due to knee problems was a little concerning. Going back to his college freshman year, he tore his ACL and missed the full season to repair it — he then followed that up with 3 seasons of being a bell cow back at Boise State with 678 rushes and 73 pass receptions for a total of 4,567 yards and 55 touchdowns. But all that work scared teams off; they thought he over-worked himself in college, and some teams supposedly took him completely off their draft boards because they didn’t expect his knee to last long. That’s a reason I used at first to help myself understand the trade but I don’t think that’s the main reason it made sense.
My favourite thing to watch about Ajayi was he is a hard, hard runner. He will run through you and arm tackles are nothing to him. Most importantly, he is always falling forwards and fighting for yards. This year, the problem was he was being tackled as he was handed the ball so there was nowhere for him to go.
When Kenyan Drake was drafted I remember these exact words being used by one of the analysts. “Some scouts had Kenyan Drake ranked higher than Derrick Henry.” Which is exciting because Henry is going to dominate this league within the next year or two. But Drake is a do-it-all running back who doesn’t have what it takes to be a three-down back yet. He is very good in protection and pass catching, but is not someone that can control a backfield. That’s where Damien Williams comes in. Damien Williams can catch out of the backfield as well and is always fighting for more yards. He’s even the Dolphins goal line back as he had 6 touchdowns last year. So the big body of Ajayi won’t hurt us at the goal line.
The third reason I think this move made sense was because Miami isn’t near a Super Bowl window. Unfortunately, as they have been for the past 8ish years, it seems like Miami is going to hover around a 6-10 record. Last year’s record was a lie and that team didn’t deserve to make the playoffs. That 6-10 record will lead to a pick in the low 10s and it doesn’t provide us with enough of a game changer to change the franchise but may make us a little better. But the point of this is the window for Miami isn’t happening any time soon. A new QB, a few more OL and a couple of linebackers are needed as the bare minimum for a Miami Super Bowl run. By the time we find that, Ajayi could be 27-28 and will be past his prime, so why not take the risk on a 4th round pick who could fill one of those needs and try to speed up the rebuild?
The last reason the trade made sense was that he supposedly had an awful attitude. I can’t confirm this because, obviously, I am not in the locker room. But supposedly win or lose — no matter the outcome — he wanted the ball more, and it seemed like he was in it for himself more than the team. Now we won’t know this for sure as I am sure that being on 9-1 Philadelphia with a chance at the Super Bowl, he won’t mind not getting the ball. But he could have been used to make a statement by Adam Gase to try and get the team going and make them earn their jobs. Needless to say, that didn’t work.