Bronco Beat

NFL Draft blog: Jay Ajayi to Dolphins; Matt Miller, Grant Hedrick to Broncos

Matt Miller headed to Denver

Undrafted free agents have started agreeing with NFL teams. I’ll track the locals here:

WR Matt Miller, Boise State: Denver Broncos (according to Miller, his agent and Broncos).

FB Blake Renaud, Boise State: Minnesota Vikings (according to his agent)

QB Grant Hedrick, Boise State: Denver Broncos for a tryout (according to Hedrick).

K Dan Goodale, Boise State: Baltimore Ravens for a tryout (according to Goodale and his agent)

Hedrick said he considered Denver a strong fit during the buildup to the draft and knew he would accept an offer from the team. The Broncos drafted Northwestern’s Trevor Siemian late in the seventh round but Siemian is recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Hedrick’s tryout will be at the rookie minicamp next weekend. “They said, ‘You’re going to take all the reps during this minicamp,’ which is awesome,” Hedrick said. “It’s a really good opportunity for me to go in and hopefully stick around a little longer if I do well and if not maybe open some doors somewhere else.” He’ll join his college roommate, Miller, in Denver. Former Boise State center Matt Paradis was on the Broncos’ practice squad last season. “I hope (Paradis) is snapping and I’ll be throwing Miller the ball,” Hedrick said. “It will be like old times.” Denver’s top two quarterbacks are Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler.

Miller said his agent spoke to several teams but they quickly identified the Broncos as the best fit. “I couldn’t be more excited about that choice and getting the opportunity to make the team in Denver,” Miller said. “... We knew the type of coaches that they have and the type of players they like to bring in. We felt I’d fit in really well with that system.” Miller said he did have some nerves as the day progressed. Boise State’s all-time leader in receptions hasn’t played since September because of an ankle injury. “You just don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said. “I was hoping to get a phone call. I’m pleased and thankful I got that opportunity. ... I’m just going to keep working hard, keep my head down and do whatever it takes to make the team.” Denver’s wide receivers are Isaiah Burse, Andre Caldwell, Bennie Fowler, Jeremy Kelley, Cody Latimer, Jordan Norwood, Nathan Palmer, Emmanuel Sanders, Jordan Taylor, Demaryius Thomas and Kyle Williams. Only Thomas (111 catches) and Sanders (101) had more than five catches for the Broncos last season. Denver didn’t draft a wide receiver.

Dolphins grab Ajayi in fifth round

Former Boise State tailback Jay Ajayi’s NFL Draft slide finally stopped Saturday in the middle of the fifth round.

He was selected by the Miami Dolphins – the same team that took cornerback Jamar Taylor in 2013, when he unexpectedly fell deep into the second round because of a medical condition.

Ajayi, who was once considered a second-round pick, was taken with the 13th pick of the fifth round – No. 149 overall.

“God is Good!” Ajayi tweeted. “So Thankful! FINS UP!!!!!!!!”

Taylor tweeted: “Lil bro!!! Let’s work!!”

Taylor is one of the former teammates Ajayi mentioned as a mentor for him as he’s gone through the NFL Draft process.

Lamar Miller led the Dolphins last season with 1,099 rushing yards, a 5.1-yard average and eight touchdowns. But the second-leading rusher was quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Other running backs on the current roster: Mike Gillislee, LaMichael James (9 yards for 49ers/Dolphins last year) and Damien Williams (122 yards last year).

Assistant general manager Eric Stokes was surprised to get Ajayi so late.

“Big back, just terrific,” Stokes said. “Didn’t really foresee this happening as the draft unfolded. Really excited to get a big, powerful back who’s had production. He brings physical presence, toughness. He has burst, speed, agility. I think you’ll be really impressed. Excellent hands out of the backfield. He can really do it all – we’re getting a three-down player there.”

More Stokes: “He’s a player we had highly rated on our board. From a medical standpoint ... we’re very comfortable from that standpoint. There really wasn’t an issue for us as much. ... He’s a perfect fit in terms of what we wanted to add ... additional power to our running game. It was an easy move to turn that card in and we’re very happy to have him.”

Ajayi was the 13th tailback selected. The first nine are broken down below. The others: Mike Davis of South Carolina (fourth round), Buck Allen of USC (fourth round) and David Cobb of Minnesota (fifth round).

Ajayi spoke to a podcast on the Dolphins’ website. Some highlights:

– On joining the Dolphins: “I’m definitely relieved knowing that the Dolphins took a chance on me and I’m so excited to come down to Miami.”

– On falling in draft: “It was definitely disappointing at times, but at the same time I had a strong support system around me, one that kept me level-headed and kept me focused. Watching the draft just added to the chip on my shoulder. I’m just really glad the Dolphins took that chance on me and I’m ready to prove them right and prove the teams that passed on me wrong.”

– On the motivation from falling: “Every time I saw a running back go in front of me, every time I saw another round pass, it just added to that. The draft is over and like my dad and everyone has been telling me, it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish. So that’s what I’m excited about.”

– Ajayi said people don’t realize how smart of a player he is: “I’ll kill it on the board,” he said.

– The Dolphins play the Jets in week four in London. Ajayi was born in England and lived there until he was 7: “That’s going to be one of the most surreal experiences of my life. I’m just ready to get into camp and learn this playbook and get ready to play football so when it comes to week four that I am a guy that will end up being on that field.”

General manager Dennis Hickey was pressed on the Ajayi knee issue. He said the team was comfortable with what it knew.

“He was one of the more emotional (draftees),” Hickey said. “He was really excited to be a Miami Dolphin and come down to Miami and be a part of what we’re trying to build here.”

Ajayi also spoke to the Miami media. Some highlights from the team website:

– “I did think that I was going to go earlier, so I was definitely disappointed,” Ajayi said. “At the same time, I can only control what I can control. I know right now at this very moment that I’m extremely healthy and I’m ready to go into camp and ready to contribute right away. I’m excited that the Dolphins took a chance on me and I’m ready to just prove a lot of people wrong and prove the Dolphins right. I know with my knee and the way that I make sure that I handle it I will play for a long time and I’m just excited to see how my future unfolds and I’m excited to be a Dolphin.”

– “I think I’m a very versatile payer,” Ajayi said. “I’ve shown to be able to move the chains on third down with power and I’ve shown that I’ve been able to have big plays using my speed, catching the ball out of the backfield and running on the outside and inside. I’m a very versatile player that can do a lot for the Dolphins. I watched a lot of Marshawn Lynch and Arian Foster and Matt Forte and I just try to add pieces of their game to mine. Those are guys that I look up to.”

Mountain West players drafted

Second round

59. OT Ty Sambrailo (Broncos), Colorado State

Third round

75. QB Garrett Grayson (Saints), Colorado State

Fourth round

130. OG Terry Poole (Seahawks), San Diego State

Fifth round

149. RB Jay Ajayi (Dolphins), Boise State

154. DT Tyeler Davison (Saints), Fresno State

Sixth round

197. S Derron Smith (Bengals), Fresno State

215. OG Cody Wichmann (Rams), Fresno State

Seventh round

231. FB Joey Iosefa (Bucs), Hawaii

236. LB Mark Nzeocha (Cowboys), Wyoming

249. DB Akeem King (Falcons), San Jose State

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Other Boise State opponents drafted

First round

12. DT Danny Shelton (Browns), Washington (2012-13)

18. CB Marcus Peters (Chiefs), Washington (2012-13)

25. LB Shaq Thompson (Panthers), Washington (2012-13)

27. CB Byron Jones (Cowboys), UConn (2014)

Second round

44. OLB Hau'oli Kikaha (Saints), Washington (2013)

56. CB Senquez Golson (Steelers), Ole Miss (2014)

Fourth round

114. OG Jamil Douglas (Dolphins), Arizona State (2011)

Fifth round

156. WR Tony Lippett (Dolphins), Michigan State (2012)

167. CB Damian Swann (Saints), Georgia (2011)

175. WR Keith Mumphery (Texans), Michigan State (2012)

Sixth round

186. WR Geremy Davis (Giants), UConn (2014)

207. LB Amarlo Herrera (Colts), Georgia (2011)

210. DE Christian Ringo (Packers), Louisiana (2014)

217. DT Rakeem Nunez-Roches (Chiefs), Southern Miss (2012)

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The No. 9 running back? Jeremy Langford

The Bears took Michigan State running back Jeremy Langford with the seventh pick of the fourth round, No. 106 overall.

Source confirms NFL’s knee concerns

Here is our story on Boise State tailback Jay Ajayi’s draft fall. An NFL source confirmed to the Idaho Statesman that concerns about Ajayi’s knee caused him to slip.

Ajayi falls to final day of NFL Draft

Former Boise State tailback Jay Ajayi wasn’t taken during the second or third round of the NFL Draft on Friday.

Six running backs were selected, in addition to the two who went in the first round. Apparently, the rumblings that concerns about Ajayi’s right knee were scaring off some teams were true.

Mike Mayock of NFL Network said on the air that he talked to six or seven teams about Ajayi last week and two or three had taken him off their draft boards because of a knee. Ajayi had knee surgery in 2011 but says he’s healthy.

“One team will say, ‘He’s off the board because he’s bone on bone,’ ” Mayock said. “Other teams say, ‘That’s fine. We’ll get one contract out of him.’ ”

Picks to watch in the fourth round: 2, Patriots; 5, Jets; 11, Vikings; 12, Patriots; 15, Dolphins; 23, Ravens; 26, Ravens; 28, Cowboys.

The No. 8 running back? A shocker

The Redskins took Florida’s Matt Jones with the 31st pick of the third round, No. 95 overall.

Jones rushed for 817 yards and six touchdowns last season. He also had 11 catches.

The No. 7 running back? An FCS player

The Cardinals took Northern Iowa’s David Johnson with the 22nd pick of the third round, No. 86 overall.

The No. 6 running back? Duke Johnson

The Browns took Miami’s Duke Johnson with the 13th pick of the third round, No. 77 overall.

The No. 5 running back? Coleman

The Falcons selected Indiana’s Tevin Coleman with the ninth pick of the third round, No. 73 overall.

Coleman rushed for 2,036 yards with a 7.5-yard average last season.

The No. 4 running back? Abdullah

The Lions grabbed the fourth running back of the NFL Draft in Ameer Abdullah of Nebraska. He was the 22nd pick of the second round.

Abdullah rushed for 1,611 yards and 19 TDs last season.

The No. 3 running back? Surprise ...

Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon was the third running back selected, going to the Jaguars with the fourth pick of the second round. He wasn’t widely considered one of the top five running backs in the draft.

Yeldon rushed for 979 yards last season.

Hedrick doesn’t expect to get picked

Former Boise State quarterback Grant Hedrick expects to go to the NFL via undrafted free agency instead of the draft.

Hedrick has been rated among the top 10 quarterbacks and top 300 prospects by some analysts.

No Boise State quarterback has been drafted since Jim McMillan in 1975 (14th round).

“I’m not really worried about it,” Hedrick said. “I’m kind of expecting to hopefully get a call shortly after, probably with the free agents. That’s kind of the best-case scenario right now for me. Just get an opportunity – that’s all I need.”

Hedrick has moved out of his residence in Boise and is spending draft weekend at home in Independence, Ore. He left his largest belongings in storage in Boise.

“I think eventually I might want to move back,” he said. “It’s kind of weird – being home, not having a place to live in Boise anymore.”

He doesn’t plan to watch the draft. He normally would.

“I just feel like I might get angry or something,” he said.

Here is my story from March on Hedrick’s chances in the NFL.

Injury likely cost Matt Miller

Former Boise State wide receiver Matt Miller likely would have received an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine and been considered a draft prospect if he hadn’t sustained a season-ending ankle injury in September.

Now he’s expected to sign as an undrafted free agent.

“I wouldn’t say it’s frustrating,” Miller said. “It’s just part of the game. You’ve got to realize you’re one snap away from ending a career, having something that drastically changes the future. If it wasn’t for the injury, I’m sure things would have been a lot different. Those are the cards I was dealt. You have to play your hand. I’m so fortunate to be in the spot I am right now. I’m just excited for tomorrow to see what’s going to happen.”

Miller is near 100 percent, he said. He plans to meet with the doctors for whatever team gives him an opportunity to determine if he’s fully recovered.

He has healed as expected, he said.

“It feels like it’s been a while since I actually played the game,” he said. “I’m really excited to hopefully get that chance to play again, to go out and give everything I’ve got.”

He’ll spend draft day ranching, relaxing and ranching some more back home in Helena, Mont.

“I just hope to get my foot in the door somewhere,” he said. “I’m not really expecting to get drafted.”

Here is my story on how badly Miller wants to play in the NFL.

Ajayi could have a long wait

Going into the second day of the NFL Draft, former Boise State tailback Jay Ajayi is missing from second-round mock drafts produced by analysts at NFL Network, and

The second and third rounds will be staged tonight, beginning at 5 p.m.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. said in February that Ajayi could slip to Saturday, when the fourth through seventh rounds are held.

“(Ajayi) is a kid you think about maybe fourth to fifth (round), depending on the need at running back,” Kiper said on an ESPN teleconference with the media. “There are only four or five teams that are even thinking about a running back in the first three or four rounds, so if those teams take somebody else then Ajayi maybe drops a bit. You’re going to get bargains at running back. He can be a bargain in the fifth or sixth round.”

• • • 

From today’s story on Ajayi, here are the top English-born NFL Draft picks:

22. DT Mike Dawson, 1976, Cardinals

42. OT Menelik Watson, 2013, Raiders

53. RB Owen Gill, 1985, Seahawks

56. DE Osi Umenyiora, 2003, Giants

97. DB Domonique Foxworth, 2005, Broncos

97. DB Vince Newsome, 1983, Rams

Source: Pro Football Reference

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Boise State’s top draft picks

12. OT Ryan Clady, 2008, Broncos*

19. DE Shea McClellin, 2012, Bears*

29. CB Kyle Wilson, 2010, Jets*

30. DE Markus Koch, 1986, Redskins

31. RB Doug Martin, 2012, Buccaneers*

31. FB David Hughes, 1981, Seahawks

34. DE DeMarcus Lawrence, 2014, Cowboys

44. WR Titus Young, 2011, Lions

47. OT Daryn Colledge, 2006, Packers

54. CB Jamar Taylor, 2013, Dolphins

61. S Gerald Alexander, 2007, Lions

75. RB John Smith, 1976, Cowboys

78. WR Austin Pettis, 2011, Rams

81. DE Tyrone Crawford, 2012, Cowboys

97. DB Rick Woods, 1982, Steelers

* indicates first-round picks

• • • 


Gurley breaks RB drought; Gordon goes, too

The St. Louis Rams selected Georgia tailback Todd Gurley with the 10th pick of the first round Thursday in the NFL Draft.

Gurley is the first running back taken in the first round since 2012. He also is the consensus top running back prospect in the draft with Boise State’s Jay Ajayi vying for the No. 3 spot.

Gurley rushed for 911 yards and nine touchdowns on 123 carries in six games last season. He missed much of the season because of a suspension and torn anterior cruciate ligament.

The consensus No. 2 tailback in the draft, Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, went to the Chargers with the 15th pick.

Gordon, a Heisman Trophy finalist who tied with Boise State’s Jay Ajayi for the national lead in TDs (32), led the nation with 2,587 rushing yards – 551 more than anyone else.

The question now is when the third tailback will come off the board – and who it will be. Ajayi is a candidate. The spot for the next tailback likely will be early in the second round. In fact, there could be a run on tailbacks sometime Friday evening with about a half-dozen projected in the second or third rounds.

• • • 

Draft primer

The NFL Draft begins with the first round at 6 p.m. Thursday (ESPN, NFL Network). We will track the draft through all three days in this blog post, which will include news and notes about Boise State’s prospects as well as a list of draftees who competed in the Mountain West or for Boise State opponents.

Former Boise State tailback Jay Ajayi is expected to be selected in the second or third round. That portion of the draft begins at 5 p.m. Friday (ESPN/ESPN2, NFL Network). The fourth through seventh rounds begin at 10 a.m. Saturday (ESPN, NFL Network). Undrafted players will reach free-agent deals as soon as the draft ends, around 5 p.m. Saturday. That’s when former Boise State quarterback Grant Hedrick, wide receiver Matt Miller, cornerback Cleshawn Page, linebacker/fullback Blake Renaud, kicker Dan Goodale and defensive end Beau Martin likely will find out their fates. Former Arizona State and Eagle High quarterback Taylor Kelly also is in the late rounds/free agent boat.

First thing to watch tonight: What happens with the top two running backs, Todd Gurley of Georgia and Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin. Both are expected to go in the first round and likely will take teams off the board for Ajayi.

Teams in need of running backs include the Jets (picks 6, 37, 70), Falcons (8, 42, 73), Dolphins (14, 47), Chargers (17, 48, 83), Lions (23, 54, 88), Cardinals (24, 55, 86), Cowboys (27, 60, 91), Jaguars (3, 36, 67), Vikings (11, 45, 76) and Patriots (32, 64, 96, 97), according to ESPN’s Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. Running back is the top need for the Chargers and Cowboys, McShay wrote.

Ajayi met with several teams but only identified two — the Ravens and Cowboys. He also worked out for the Cowboys at the team facility.

The Jaguars, Seahawks and Chargers sent their running backs coaches to Boise State’s pro day.

• • • 

Ajayi, Hedrick make Kiper’s top 300

ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. ranked Ajayi the No. 84 prospect eligible for this year’s draft in his final top 300. He has Hedrick at No. 298. Kiper has Ajayi as the eighth-best running back, down from No. 4.

ESPN’s Todd McShay, who once ranked Ajayi No. 50, has dropped him to No. 82. He doesn’t have Hedrick in his final top 300. He has Ajayi as the seventh-best running back, also down from No. 4.

ESPN’s Jon Gruden criticized Ajayi for his pass protection skills, which is odd considering his Boise State coaches raved about that element of his game.

Mike Mayock of the NFL Network also has Ajayi as the eight-best running back because of recent rumblings about his right knee, which was surgically repaired in 2011.

“I’ve talked to a bunch of teams, and I think it’s going to hurt him a little bit,” Mayock said on a recent media conference call. “Some teams don’t care that much. Other teams do. ... Worst case he drops into the third round where teams will feel like it’s a little bit more value for the risk.”

• • • 

Idaho Statesman stories on Boise State prospects

Aug. 26, 2014: Ajayi profile

Dec. 21, 2014: Ajayi opts for NFL

Feb. 20, 2015: Ajayi prepares for NFL Scouting Combine

April 28, 2015: Ajayi’s place in RB class

May 1, 2015: Ajayi – one of England’s greatest football exports?

Oct. 25, 2013: Hedrick profile

Dec. 28, 2014: Hedrick sets example for future QBs

March 15, 2015: Hedrick hopes to capitalize on unexpected opportunity

March 18, 2015: Several Broncos impress at pro day

March 19, 2015: Miller recovers from injury to perform at pro day

Nov. 25, 2014: Miller helps team despite season-ending injury

Oct. 15, 2011: Miller profile

Sept. 4, 2014: Page profile

Also of note:

Dec. 25, 2014: QB Taylor Kelly profile (Eagle High)