With the 2016 NFL Combine well underway in Indianapolis, there’s no shortage of speculation going around as to who might be the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft. And while quarterbacks Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, defensive end Joey Bosa and offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil have all been bandied about as possibilities, Bucky Brooks of NFL.com believes that Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey is a dark-horse candidate to be the Tennessee Titans first pick on April 28th.
“It’s uncommon for a defensive back to rank as the best football player in the draft,” Brooks said, “but Ramsey is a legitimate difference maker with the skills to fill a variety of roles in the secondary. The 6-foot-1, 194-pounder is a rare talent as a cover corner with a high football IQ and nasty demeanor that makes him ideally suited to play inside as a box defender or slot playmaker at the next level. While most teams value quarterbacks and pass rushers as the premium players on their rosters, the potential to nab a Charles Woodson-like defender could prompt scouts and coaches to make a play for Ramsey with the top pick.”
The 6’1”, 202-pound Ramsey, who had 52 tackles and a sack for the Seminoles in 2015, will have a chance to bolster his stock in the 40-yard dash Monday. Not only is the blazingly fast, Ramsey a contender to be the fastest man at this year’s combine, but the NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah thinks Ramsey could challenge Chris Johnson’s combine record of 4.24 seconds.
“Ramsey is an elite talent on the football field,” Jeremiah wrote, “but he was also a track star at FSU. He won the ACC long-jump title in both indoor and outdoor track. He also placed seventh in the conference in the 100 meter, posting a time of 10.61. He might not run the top 40-time in Indy, but his overall workout will be outstanding. Bottom line: He’s one of the most gifted players in this entire draft class.”
Mike Mayock of the NFL Network is an equally big fan of Ramsey’s talent and versatility, but Mayock allowed to Bob Ferrante of 247 Sports that fit at the NFL level may be the biggest question facing teams where Ramsey’s concerned.
“We’re all trying to figure out what he is,” Mayock said. “Most teams would like to believe he’s a corner. There’s more value attached to that. Could he be Patrick Peterson? He has length, he has world-class speed. Even when he gets beat off the line of scrimmage in press coverage, it’s amazing to see his catch-up speed. It’s like ‘beep, beep’ and he’s there.”
“Can you invest a high draft pick in a defensive back that doesn’t turn the ball over regularly? He didn’t get a lot of interceptions,” Mayock continued. “Everybody loves him, everybody believes in him. What about his on-ball production at the corner position. Will he be effective and turn the football over more frequently using that great speed at free safety?”
It’s that NFL fit that will also determine Ramsey’s IDP value. We just saw Tyrann Mathieu of the Arizona Cardinals finish the 2015 season second among all defensive backs in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring on a points-per-game basis as a “jack of all trades” in the Redbirds’ defensive backfield. And it’s Mathieu who Dane Brugler of CBS Sports compared Ramsey’s game to.
“While some teams will like him better as a cornerback and others as a safety,” Brugler said, “like Mathieu, Ramsey is better categorized as a playmaking defensive back due to his rangy skill-set and versatility.”
However, Mathieu’s fantasy value is tied both to his willingness to get his hat dirty against the run and his knack for making big plays. Ramsey’s shown plenty of aptitude in the former category, but with only three career interceptions at Florida State (including none in 2015) the youngster has a ways to go in the takeaway category before he becomes a fantasy stud.
Does Ramsey have the athletic ability to become a bigger, (possibly) faster version of Mathieu who plays every position in an NFL team’s secondary while emerging as a viable IDP starter? Yes. But there are a lot of ifs, maybes and moving parts involved in that scenario, making it unlikely that Ramsey will be a draftable IDP asset in all but the deepest of dynasties in 2016 unless several things (including a landing spot where early playing time at safety is in the cards) break just so.