Last season, many expected that the offense would carry the Detroit Lions. Instead, it was the defense that took off in year one under Jim Caldwell, due in part to offensive line struggles and injuries to key pieces on the outside and in the backfield.
While Joique Bell ran well for the Lions towards the end of last season, his performance combined with the move to cut Reggie Bush has increased the possibility the Lions could look for a running back in the 2015 NFL Draft.
More from Lions Draft
- Jack Campbell checks every box for what Lions want in a linebacker
- Further confirmation the Detroit Lions ‘got their guys’ in the 2023 NFL Draft
- Another team besides the Lions really liked Sam LaPorta in the draft
- Brodric Martin had to change his draft plans when the Lions called
- Detroit Lions drafting of Jahmyr Gibbs tabbed as very bad NFL offseason decision
Notable Combine Measurables
225-lb Bench Press: 19 reps
Vertical: 39 inches
40-yard dash: 4.57
Broad Jump: 121 inches
three-cone drill: 7.10 secs
20-yard shuttle: 4.10 secs
60-yard shuttle: 11.10 secs
Traits and Projected Round
In one of our previous Detroit Lions Draft Profiles, I covered Melvin Gordon who I likened to a Marshawn Lynch type of back. After reviewing film on Ajayi I see a Lynch comparison here as well.
Ajayi is a powerful runner who does a good job shedding tackles and picking up yards after contact, while also displaying some impressive elusiveness that you don’t typically see in a runner of his size. His ability to gain yards after contact has earned him the nickname “J-Train” which couldn’t be a more perfect fit for his running style.
Despite having four more carries than Gordon did last season (347 to 343), Ajayi managed fewer yards (1,823 to 2,587) against lesser competition. That might raise some flags about Ajayi’s ability to produce at the next level.
Then again, Ajayi didn’t have the benefit of running behind Wisconsin’s superior offensive line which has been a knock by some talent evaluators regarding Gordon and his historic production. While Gordon was clearly the more product rusher of the two backs, Ajayi is a much more accomplished receiver out of the backfield who looks like a natural in the passing game.
This trait may be especially enticing to the Lions who love to incorporate their running backs into the passing game.
Anyone who has watched the Boise State running back this season knows he can play. But for the reasons mentioned above, it is unlikely that Ajayi finds himself off the board before Gordon or Todd Gurley.
With Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley gone, the Lions might choose to replenish their depth along the defensive line in round one despite regaining some of that depth in the Haloti Ngata trade. If that’s the case the Lions will likely miss out on the consensus top running backs in Gordon and Gurley leaving them to choose from the second tier options.
While some see Ajayi as a second to third round prospect, I hardly see him slipping into the third. He’s the 2015 NFL Draft’s best kept secret at running back who could provide the Lions with tremendous value in the second round as someone that I think could end up as the best running back in the draft class.
More from SideLion Report
- Top 5 revenge games on the Detroit Lions 2023 schedule
- Lions center Frank Ragnow optimistic about continuing to play through toe injury
- Detroit Lions 2023 preseason schedule: Dates, times and opponents
- A new contract extension projection for Lions quarterback Jared Goff
- 4 wide receivers the Detroit Lions could still look to acquire this offseason