There’s little question that running back Jay Ajayi has entered a better situation with the Philadelphia Eagles, the team that traded a fourth-round draft pick to acquire him Tuesday, than the one he had with the struggling Miami Dolphins, but with that change does come a potentially relevant downside. Sure, the Eagles boast the best record in the NFL and a fantastic quarterback that can throw the ball downfield, and while the offensive line isn’t as strong as the full-season metrics might claim because left tackle Jason Peters is out for the season, it still beats the status quo from Miami.
However, we can’t gloss over the fact the Eagles still employ battering ram LeGarrette Blount for short-yardage opportunities and pass-catching Wendell Smallwood for third downs, and Ajayi wasn’t sharing touches in Miami. In fact, he was seeing nearly 90 percent of the rushing attempts there. Ajayi wasn’t gaining many yards or scoring touchdowns with his ample chances, and that should adjust, in theory, with Philadelphia, but the bottom line is those relying on Ajayi shouldn’t presume his fantasy value skyrockets. Perhaps now he can fulfill the original expectations and at least act as a RB1. Ajayi enters Week 9 tied for 30th among running backs in PPR scoring after being selected as the No. 8 running back and 16th overall in ESPN average live drafts.
Ajayi broke out as an RB1 during the 2016 season, his second in the league after amassing huge numbers at Boise State, but did so a bit unconventionally, which is why there were some reservations for future production. While it’s nice to have a running back capable of producing three games of more than 200 rushing yards, those games accounted for more than half of Ajayi’s rushing total for the season. He wasn’t consistent, and everyone knows he deals with knee problems, which affected his draft stock and clouds his long-term outlook. As for the short term, Ajayi should be healthy enough to upgrade Philadelphia’s running game, though it’s far more balanced than what he encountered in Miami, and perhaps just as critically he’s a strong option in pass protection. Have to keep Carson Wentz upright!
As for Blount and Smallwood, it doesn’t figure to be much fun relying on their production in fantasy from here on out. Blount has been predictably far less productive this season after rushing for 1,161 yards and scoring 18 touchdowns for last season’s New England Patriots, but he’s also seen far fewer rushing attempts. He’s averaging a healthy 4.7 yards per rush, but has disappointed in short-yardage situations, scoring only two touchdowns. The Eagles generate many chances for goal-line opportunities, but haven’t been effective in that area. It remains to be seen if Ajayi will be involved in that aspect. Regardless, Blount was barely a flex choice most weeks and now he’s further removed from that status, and Smallwood has his own issues remaining healthy, let alone productive.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins, coming off an embarrassing 40-0 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, figure to turn to some combination of Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams, but with the offensive line in shambles and poor quarterback play, it’s hard to see how either will succeed. The Dolphins are the first team since the 2013 Rams to fail to rush for a touchdown through the first seven games. Drake averaged 5.4 yards per rush as a rookie, but in limited chances this season the Alabama product has really struggled, albeit in a mere 10 rushes. Since Williams is more of a pass-catcher, the Dolphins should make this a time-share, which fantasy owners absolutely despise. If choosing which one to roster in fantasy, Drake should go first, but it seems unlikely he’ll earn weekly flex status anytime soon, so one might simply be better off ignoring the Dolphins.