The Jay Train has become a bandwagon.
Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi checked in at No. 69 Monday night on the countdown of the NFL’s Top 100 players on NFL Network, which polled players.
The network is counting down its annual list of the top 100, with Nos. 70-61 airing Monday night. Earlier in the day, the network tipped its hand somewhat with a news release that didn’t name names but said one Dolphin was making his fifth appearance in the rankings and the other his first.
No. 5 was defensive end Cameron Wake, who ranked 62nd this year and was a career-high 39th in 2015. He also made the list in 2011, ’13 and ’14. He was absent in 2016 because he tore his Achilles but came back this past season to have 11.5 sacks.
“I don’t think I’ve seen him blocked all year,” Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso said.
The network said Wake, 35, is the oldest defensive player to make the Top 100.
The Miami newcomer to the rankings was indeed Ajayi, who had 1,272 yards (a 4.9 average) and eight touchdowns in 2016 after gaining just 187 yards on 49 carries as a rookie.
Ajayi’s rushing total ranks third in Dolphins history.
“Everybody’s scared to tackle him,” Bears defensive lineman Pernell McPhee, from Pahokee, said on the special.
Ajayi topped 200 yards against Pittsburgh and twice against Buffalo. He was named AFC offensive player of the week three times. The only other Dolphins to earn player of the week honors three times in a season were quarterback Dan Marino and cornerback Sam Madison.
Although the list is subjective, it is a badge of honor for some. Last year, receiver Jarvis Landry was a mere No. 98. All season, he kept a large ’97’ taped in his locker as motivation, refusing to believe there are that many players in the league better than him.
Ajayi’s motivation came in the form of a gas can that Kaleb Thornhill, director of player development, taped in his locker as a challenge to see how much he has left in the tank.
NFL Network and Ajayi’s peers now say that tank never ran dry.
Neither did Wake’s.
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