Fantasy Impact: Dolphins RB Jay Ajayi Traded to Philadelphia Eagles

By Matt Johnson on Tuesday, October 31st 2017
Fantasy Impact: Dolphins RB Jay Ajayi Traded to Philadelphia Eagles

This will be the most active NFL Trade Deadline we've seen in years. On Tuesday morning, the Miami Dolphins traded Pro Bowl running back Jay Ajayi to the Philadelphia Eagles for a fourth-round pick in 2018. The Miami Herald's Armando Salguero reported the deal on Tuesday morning.

It certainly comes as a shocker given Ajayi's name never once came up in trade speculation leading up to today's NFL Trade Deadline. But reading the tea leaves, it makes sense given Miami head coach Adam Gase's public blasting of Ajayi after the team got blown out 40-0 on Thursday Night Football and the running game once again struggled.

From a fantasy perspective, the ripples will be felt in a major way both in Miami and Philadelphia. Ajayi's fantasy stock sees a significant bump, though maybe not as sizable as some expect, while LeGarrette Blount and Wendell Smallwood's role now change. Meanwhile, Miami will ask Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams to now play a much larger role and hope one emerges as the team's new top running back.

If someone only judged Ajayi off his numbers this season, it would be easy to come away with the impression he isn't the running back many make him to be. But the 24-year-old back played behind one of the worst offensive lines in football this year and received next to no support from his passing game.

Look past Ajayi's 138 carries for 465 rushing yards, a 3.4 yards per carry average, to focus more on the outstanding numbers he posted last season. When Miami's offense showed some resemblance to quality, Ajayi racked up nearly 1,300 rushing yards and finished the season with eight touchdowns and a 4.9 yards per carry average.

The situation in Ajayi is certainly one that has multiple layers. On the one hand, Ajayi joins one of the NFL's best offenses and should immediately see lighter defensive boxes and find more holes to running through. Philadelphia's success on offense should also open up the door for Ajayi to see more opportunities for touchdowns.

While there are concerns over Ajayi's lack of work as a third-down back, given he caught just 31 passes during his near three-year tenure in Miami, he showed plenty of ability to catch the ball out of the backfield in College. In his final season at Boise State, Ajayi racked up 50 receptions for 535 receiving yards and four touchdowns.

That's the good news for Ajayi and it certainly serves as a fantasy stock boost, making him a much more reliable top-12 fantasy running back. But there are some reasons to be concerned with Ajayi's fantasy role.

For one, Ajayi might be limited in Week 9 given he isn't familiar with Doug Pederson's offense and would need a little time to adjust upon his arrival and learn the offensive line's blocking tendencies. He'll get that additional time during Philadelphia's Week 10 bye, but it means Ajayi might have to sit on your bench for the next two weeks. As a result, fantasy owners who drafted him might have missed Ajayi for three of 1the 17 fantasy weeks.

Philadelphia's crowded backfield is also a cause for some concern. LeGarrette Blount, who is averaging 4.7 yards per carry this season, will continue to have a role in this offense and likely is the favored running back for Philadelphia when it gets inside the 10-yard line. Ajayi could also share some third-down snaps with Wendell Smallwood, limiting some of his PPR upside.

In the grand scheme of things though, Philadelphia's decision to make the big move is a sign they see Ajayi in a very positive light and want him to touch the football 18-plus times a game. Behind an offensive line that is worlds better than what he saw in Miami, even without left tackle Jason Peters, Ajayi will find much greater fantasy success. Even if Ajayi carries significant long-term health risks due to the condition of his knee and Jeff Darlington's report that Miami thought Ajayi didn't have much tread left on them, Philadelphia lands a very good running back for the next season and a half.

For fantasy owners carrying Blount, he'll likely slide off into being a fringe bench player for you. At that point, if you're in a roster crunch with six teams on a bye this week and injuries, it might be time to move on.

Kenyan Drake is the first running back to scoop up first in Miami. The 23-year-old showed flashes last season when he averaged 5.4 yards per carry as a rookie, though it came on only 33 attempts. He should get the first crack to be Miami's more featured running back, but Miami's offensive line woes and poor quarterback play hurt the likelihood that he or Williams makes anything of it. Drake is worth a speculative add, but keep expectations low.

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