Well, Jay Ajayi owners probably felt thoroughly bamboozled after the first two drives of Thursday’s opener against the Falcons. Despite all the talk of Ajayi supposedly being the bell-cow back, he didn’t get a single touch and instead ceded work to both Darren Sproles and Corey Clement. But as the Eagles offense got moving, so did Ajayi. He scored a goal-line TD in the third quarter to save his night before tacking on an 11-yard TD and a 2-point conversion in the 4th quarter, turning his good night into a great one, at least as far as fantasy goes.
Ajayi’s stat line, 15 carries for 62 yards and 2 TDs, definitely made his owners happy. But as any experienced fantasy player knows, touchdowns are volatile, and you don’t need me to tell you Ajayi won’t score two TDs every game. The good thing for Ajayi is he probably doesn’t need to.
I get it, the volume seems like a concern. After all, Darren Sproles started this game. And the 35 year old coming off an ACL tear looked just as explosive as he always has. Then factor in Corey Clement who got 5 carries against the Falcons and ripped off a 21-yard run, and this backfield looks like a nightmare. But Ajayi came into this game nursing a foot injury. And according to Doug Pederson, he was just being eased into action and will be used more in the future. When you consider that 12 of Ajayi’s 15 carries, 51 of his 62 yards, and both of his TDs came in the second half of the game, Pederson’s probably telling the truth.
It’s more than reasonable to see 15 carries as a floor for Ajayi moving forward. Behind one of the league’s best offensive lines and with some of the highest TD upside of any RB in the league, Ajayi is capable of being a back-end RB1, even with Sproles inevitably taking some of the passing-down work and Clement stealing a carry here and there. If Ajayi continues averaging 4.1 YPC like he did Thursday night, 20 carries should mean 80 yards most nights, which is a decent floor before factoring in TDs. And considering he averaged 5.7 YPC in his 7 regular season games with the Eagles last season, there’s room for improvement in the YPC department.
As long as Ajayi is actually treated like the Eagles’ primary option, i.e. not having to wait until their third possession to get a touch, he’ll be one of the premier fantasy RBs. And now that he’s over the foot injury that hampered him during the preseason, he should be able to reach his ceiling. For those of you who managed to draft Ajayi in the 4th or 5th round of your drafts, congratulations. Because assuming health, you got yourself a stud.