Jay Ajayi has been so dominant of late he’s catapulted himself into the top running back in the NFL entering Week 10, according to not one, not two, but THREE separate rankings taking into account advanced metrics.
The first is by Football Outsiders, which does a fine job of normalizing running back play across the league, taking into account uncontrollable factors like blocking and strength of opponent.
Note: DYAR is Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement, “the value of the performance on plays where this RB carried/caught the ball compared to replacement level.” DVOA is Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, the “value, per play, over an average running back in the same game situations.”
Need some corroboration?
He’s the second ranked overall running back, according to Pro Football Focus, but slides to the top of their list when factoring in solely running performance, after removing receiving and blocking.
Then we have ESPN’s Expected Points Added, with Ajayi pacing the field.
For those more inclined to trust the raw numbers, Ajayi is second in yards per game (92.3) and first in yards per carry (6.0).
Any way you look at it, Ajayi playing elite football this season, his first as a starter.
This is incredible not only because he’s a fifth round pick with 13 backs selected ahead of him in the 2015 Draft but he’s received a full workload just three times this season. The Boise State product was left home on the team’s Week 1 trip to Seattle and received just 31 carries the next four weeks combined before his 204-yard explosion against the Steelers in Week 6.
Ajayi has been invincible the last three games, toting the ball 77 times for 529 yards (6.9 YPC) and four touchdowns, most recently including a 111-yard performance against the Jets, the No. 2 run defense in the NFL. The consistent threat to bleed a defense on the ground has also provided a quality boost to Ryan Tannehill, who has delivered three of his best four performances of the season the last three weeks, per ESPN’s QBR metric.
While the team still appears to be around average after squeaking by the Bills and Jets, they’re 3-0 during Ajayi’s tear and showing noticeable signs of improvement.
Jay Ajayi is not merely far from being “just a guy,” as Dan Le Batard asserted a few weeks ago, he’s currently the league’s apex running back. Can he sustain it?