With the NFL Scouting Combine in the books, the focus can return to scouting the players. With the excellent quarterbacks flooding the NFL, team will need to find as many talented defensive backs as possible to slow opposing offenses down. Dave Archibald examines cornerback Jalen Ramsey in our latest scouting profile.
The NFL is a copycat league, and with the last three Super Bowl champions featuring dominant press cornerbacks – Richard Sherman and the Legion of Boom for the Seattle Seahawks, Darrelle Revis of the New England Patriots, and Aqib Talib and Chris Harris of the Denver Broncos – teams are putting a premium on the cornerback position. Given the value teams are placing on press corners, it’s clear why Florida State junior Jalen Ramsey projects as a top-five pick. Coming in at 6’1” with 33 ⅜” arms, he has the length that press teams need, and he comes from a Seminole program that seemingly turns out lengthy press cornerbacks like clockwork – Deion Sanders, Antonio Cromartie, and Xavier Rhodes to name just a few. Teams looking to emulate the last three champions are drooling over the possibility of drafting Ramsey to play cornerback.
There is a “but,” however. While Ramsey’s junior-year tape as a press corner is solid – he was a consensus All-American – he arguably was even more of an impact player as a sophomore, when he played an inside role as a safety and slot cornerback. That season, Ramsey tallied 80 tackles, three sacks, 12 passes defensed, and two interceptions for the Seminoles. Ramsey showed physical run defense, blitzing ability, and the ability to play both man and zone coverage in the middle of the field. While cornerback has become a premium position for some teams, is it wasting Ramsey’s breadth of skills to only use him outside?
The team that drafts him will have to answer that question, but between his versatility, athleticism, size, film, and competitiveness, Ramsey has established himself as one of the top prospects for the 2016 draft.
Tale of the Tape
The chart below shows Ramsey’s measurement and performance in Combine drills, as well as the percentile rank of how these figures stack up to other cornerbacks and safeties since 1999:
|Height||Weight||Arm Length||Hand Span||40-Yard||Bench||Vertical||Broad Jump||Short Shuttle||3 Cone|
Data from NFLCombineResults.com and NFL.com
Ramsey is a rare blend of length, speed, and explosiveness, as indicated by his height, arm length, 40-yard dash, and jumping drills. His agility drills were roughly average for a cornerback prospect.
Ramsey has the length and physicality teams look for in press cornerbacks, getting strong jams to disrupt receivers at the line of scrimmage. He bails from press coverage fluidly and has the deep speed to keep up with receivers on vertical routes. Ramsey is a quick-twitch athlete with the ability to click-and-close from off-man or zone coverage and attack screens or flat routes:
While Ramsey has the coverage ability to stay in good position, he doesn’t always look back for the football soon enough, which can lead to long gains. He did not have an interception in his junior year as an outside corner, but he had several pass breakups that demonstrated ball skills. He plays with a physical edge and has been known to get under the skin of opposing receivers.
Ramsey nominally played a safety role in his sophomore year, but the Seminoles rarely lined him up in deep zones, more commonly using him in the slot or in the box. Ramsey’s ability to recognize routes and drive on them shows up on the inside as it does on the outside. He demonstrates good awareness – he understands game situation, route concepts, and where his help is:
Being bigger, taller, and less agile than the typical slot cornerback, Ramsey can struggle covering quick cuts from waterbug slot receivers like Wes Welker. His size and physical play makes him an ideal solution to match up on the modern move tight ends like Jimmy Graham.
Ramsey’s ability to impact the game rushing the quarterback is one reason some pundits like him on the inside. The 21-year-old shows burst moving towards the quarterback and good agility working his way around blocks:
As one might expect from a defensive back, Ramsey doesn’t have much of a repertoire if he’s picked up in the blitz. When blocked, he stays aware of the quarterback’s movement and reacts accordingly. If the offense waits to snap the ball, he can telegraph his rush. Perhaps his best quality blitzing is the same length that makes him so dangerous in press coverage. His reach cuts down on throwing lanes even if he can’t get to the quarterback, and he’s often able to deflect throws by jumping and swatting them.
Ramsey’s physical play stands out in his run defense. He is more willing than the typical college defensive back to take on blocks, and stays aware of the ball carrier’s position even when blocked so he can keep the edge or get in on the tackle:
Ramsey rarely misses a tackle. His height can make him susceptible to cut blocks. He uses his hands and strength to rip free of blockers in the open field.
Teams don’t typically draft players as highly as Ramsey projecting them as key special teams contributors, but they may want to reconsider given the junior’s skills in the kicking game. He showed outstanding ability to avoid press jams and get downfield on the punt coverage team, and was frequently the first player downfield on punts. Ramsey played on the kickoff units, where he showed the ability to absorb blocks, stay alert for the ball carrier, and make tackles:
Ramsey also lined up on the field goal block unit, where he used his length and explosion to rush off the edge. He returned two kicks and one punt in his college career.
Ramsey had no significant injuries in college.
Even the Ramsey “haters” still like him as a first-round pick, as Scott Carasik demonstrates:
The breadth of skills Ramsey displays makes him one of the truly scheme-transcendent players in the 2016 draft. It is not hard to see him succeeding as a press man corner, as a zone corner, as a slot defender, or as a safety. Perhaps his best fit is with a coaching staff that will use him in any and all of those roles depending on the opponent. Ramsey might be able to go toe-to-toe with Julio Jones one week and man up against Rob Gronkowski the next, and a team that uses him to counter matchup problems that way could maximize their return on his considerable talent.
Follow @davearchie on Twitter. Check out his other work here, or his scouting profile of DeAndre Houston-Carson and the hidden game of Super Bowl 50.
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