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Money Season: Ajayi lifts draft stock at combine

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Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Jay Ajayi's early departure to the NFL draft left pretty much no one scratching their heads. After all, the 6'0" 221 lb. back had just completed the first ever 1,800 rushing/ 500+ yard receiving season in the history of FBS football. Jay's draft stock was high and risking another knee injury, like the one he sustained as a freshman could cost him big bucks...so Jay did the natural thing and bolted—and now after competing at the NFL combine, his decision seems all the wiser.

Just like during his playing career, Ajayi wasn't superior to other top backs in speed or agility, but might have been the most consistently above average back at the combine and that goes a long way in today's NFL. Teams are looking for running backs that can do it all, and Ajayi proved to be possibly the most well-balanced ball-carrier at the combine, being named a top performer in 4 of the 7 primary combine tests (Vertical, Broad Jump, 20 and 60 yard shuttle) and just outside the top performers in 3 others (bench press, 40 yard dash, and 3 cone drill). On top of that, Ajayi's pass-catching prowess out of the backfield did not escape notice...tempting some to draw comparisons between Ajayi and Boise State's last NFL-bound back Doug Martin—except better, right Charles Davis? (6:45)

So, what are the talking heads and NFL pundits saying about the Jay Train? Turns out—good things.

"Of all the backs in this draft, Ajayi might be my favorite because he can do everything you want from a back and you don't have to find a complementary back to pick up the slack for him in any one area." —Unnamed AFC scout

"While the comparison to Marshawn Lynch might be a little much considering Lynch's exploits in the NFL, Ajayi's running style and body type are very similar to Lynch's and Ajayi features an improving stiff arm and physicality that has become Lynch's calling card." —Lance Zierlein

"Limber and flexible body type with rubber joints to be slippery at the tackle point." —Dane Brugler

So, the rubber joint surgery ended up being a great purchase, after all.

NFL.com tagged Jay with a 5.96 grade, which on their proprietary scale equates to: "Chance to become NFL starter". His 5.96 grade also is considerably higher than Colorado State QB Garrett Grayson's 5.37 grade, but that's just a random, COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT comparison. In the non-sour grapes comparison category, Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon graded out just above Ajayi at a 6.25 ("instant starter"), but most analysts had the two backs (and training partners) neck and neck. How do you feel about a Boise State player NOT being knocked for his measurables (although Ajayi's sweatpants episode appears to have found its way onto a few evals)?

Ajayi

Possible landing spots

Believe it or not, the Dallas Cowboys could once again sate Jerry Jones' appetite for Boise State alums. With Pro Bowler Demarco Murray on the roster, this decision might seem foolhardy, but if the Cowboys can't find the money to satisfy both offensive superstars (Murray and Dez Bryant), Murray could potentially test free agent waters. If that's the case, drafting Ajayi would be suddenly very smart...and there's no doubt Ajayi would play his heart out for his hometown team.

Our SB Nation pals at Pride of Detroit broke down Ajayi's game and have floated his name as a possible future Lion. Reggie Bush's status is up in the air and the Lions might be interested in the "souped up Joique Bell" in the late second. Pros of going to Detroit: Kellen. Cons: Bigfoot.

Sundry other teams will be looking for a running back with their first 3 picks (Jacksonville, Baltimore, St. Louis). If Ajayi hangs around long enough in the 2nd or possibly 3rd round, these could be landing spots. If the Patriots don't re-sign Stevan Ridley, even Super Bowl Champion New England could be a destination. Personally, I'd love it if another Bronco kicked Lagarrette Blount down the depth chart.