Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Should Jalen Ramsey be NFL draft's No. 1 pick?

TALLAHASSEE — Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey knows he has the tools to become an NFL star.

He has the size (6 feet 1, 205 pounds). He has the measureables (his combine numbers were historic). He has all of the skills and stats to make scouts call him the best defensive back prospect since Patrick Peterson and justify Ramsey's belief that he deserves to be the No. 1 overall pick in next month's NFL draft.

"I've proven it," Ramsey said. "I have the resume for it."

But even that glowing resume can't fix one problem.

His position.

A defensive back has been drafted first overall only once in NFL history, when the Steelers picked Gary Glick first in 1956. No cornerback has been picked higher than third in the last two decades; even FSU legend Deion Sanders had to wait until the fifth selection.

That didn't stop an army of Titans personnel — including coach Mike Mularkey, general manager Jon Robinson and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau — from watching FSU's pro day Tuesday to see if Ramsey is worthy of their No. 1 overall pick.

"I don't have to campaign," Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher said. "Jalen campaigned for himself in that workout."

And the three years before it.

Ramsey forced himself into FSU's lineup immediately during the national championship run, becoming the first true freshman to start at cornerback since Sanders. He bounced from safety to cornerback to nickelback-hybrid as needed, showing the versatility that could put him anywhere in an NFL secondary.

He blitzed off the edge (five sacks and 15 tackles for a loss). He shined in pass coverage (three interceptions, 23 pass breakups). He rescued FSU at Miami in 2014, sandwiching a blocked kick between a forced fumble on the first play and a game-sealing interception.

"He's just an overall monster," FSU defensive tackle Nile Lawrence-Stample said.

That became obvious at last month's combine.

Since 2006, only one defensive back has recorded a better broad jump than Ramsey (11 feet, 3 inches). Only five had better vertical jumps (411/2 inches), and none of them complemented that at the combine with a 4.41-second 40-yard dash as Ramsey did.

"Ridiculous," said Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, a Wharton High alumnus who will likely join Ramsey as a first-round pick.

Those ridiculous numbers only justified what Rotoworld NFL draft writer Josh Norris has suggested in his mock drafts — that Ramsey could pass Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil as the Titans' No. 1 overall pick. When metrics combine Ramsey's athleticism with his size, Norris said, Ramsey ranks in the 99.3 percentile of all recent NFL cornerbacks.

"You couldn't ask for a better athlete at the position," Norris said.

But that position is usually valued behind quarterbacks, offensive tackles or defensive ends on NFL draft boards. When the Bucs chose FSU quarterback Jameis Winston with last year's top choice, the Titans took Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota second.

Since 1997, every first overall pick has been either a quarterback, a tackle to protect him or a pass rusher to attack him. A player who can defend his passes has been a lower priority.

The NFL, however, is changing.

Defenses are struggling to fight pass-happy offenses loaded with tall receivers on the outside, speedy receivers in the slot and powerful tight ends over the middle. Ramsey has the size and skills to defend them all.

"The way the game is played now on defense," Fisher said, "you can't find enough of those guys."

And there's only one Ramsey.

Draft pundits struggle with an NFL comparison because he's as talented as the Cardinals' Peterson but might have a diverse skill set more like Peterson's teammate, safety Tyrann Mathieu.

Those factors combined with an evolving game might be enough to buck decades' worth of history and make FSU the first school since Southern Cal in 1968-69 (Ron Yary and O.J. Simpson) to produce back-to-back No. 1 overall draft picks.

"It's what I've always dreamed of," said Ramsey, a Tennessee native. "It's what I've worked for. I want them to pick me because they know I'm the best player in this year's draft, not because I'm a guy from Tennessee. That's just icing on the cake. I want them to really feel I'm the best player from this draft."

Regardless of his position.

Contact Matt Baker at [email protected] Follow @MBakerTBTimes.

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