Saturday, February 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jaguars draft FSU's Jalen Ramsey (w/video)

With quarterbacks expected to go with the top two picks, the Jaguars zeroed in on three other players to target with their No. 5 overall pick.

They didn't expect Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey to be there.

But when four picks ticked away on Thursday and Ramsey remained, Jacksonville quickly snatched the former Seminoles star to join a roster teeming with state ties.

"Man, I am so happy, I am so happy, I am so blessed," Ramsey said. "All the 'Nole Nation, you all just come to Jacksonville now."

Fans should be getting used to that drive along Interstate 10. Ramsey joins former FSU receiver Rashad Greene and linebacker Telvin Smith with the Jaguars, along with former Florida/Lakewood High star Dante Fowler, last year's No. 3 overall pick.

Ramsey was the first of four in-state defensive backs chosen in the first round. Florida had two players from the same secondary go in the top 20 for the first time in program history: Former Wharton High cornerback Vernon Hargreaves went to the Bucs at No. 11, and the Falcons picked safety Keanu Neal six picks later. The last time the Gators had two players chosen in the top 17 was 2001.

Neal, a hard-hitting Bushnell native, is the younger brother of Clint Hart, a former Tampa Bay Storm safety who spent seven years in the NFL.

"The kid can do anything," Hargreaves said of Neal. "I already know he knows how things go and how he needs to think and how he needs to get ready."

The Steelers drafted lanky Miami cornerback Artie Burns at No. 25, giving the Hurricanes first-round picks in back-to-back years. Burns led the ACC with six interceptions last season.

But the biggest name was Ramsey — FSU's seventh first-round pick in the past four drafts and its seventh top-five pick in the modern era.

Sports Illustrated and Yahoo were among the outlets that viewed Ramsey as the best player in the draft and worthy of being the first defensive back chosen in the top five since Patrick Peterson in 2011. The Titans were evaluating him heavily as the potential No. 1 overall pick before they traded the pick to the Rams.

Ramsey has the size (6 feet 1, 205 pounds) to be a cornerback or safety and the skill set to fit either, which is crucial as the NFL's passing game evolves. The Tennessee native's numbers at the NFL scouting combine were among the best ever at his position, and he was a long jump and sprinter on FSU's track team. The Jaguars plan to use at cornerback and as an occasional nickelback.

Jacksonville wasn't concerned with his only knock — three interceptions in three seasons.

"He wasn't being challenged when you watch him game in and game out," general manager David Caldwell said. "He does a great job of covering, and teams didn't go at him a lot."

Ramsey, the first 'Nole to start as a true freshman at cornerback since Deion Sanders, started every game at FSU, helping it win the 2013 national championship. The consensus All-American had five career sacks, three forced fumbles and 15 tackles for a loss.

"I'm extremely proud of Jalen and very excited for him and his family," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "He earned every bit of this with his work ethic and his passion for the game. He will be a tremendous player for the Jacksonville Jaguars and I'm looking forward to watching him on Sundays for years to come."

Contact Matt Baker at [email protected].

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