If Su'a Cravens is wired differently, then Jalen Ramsey is a spitting image of Russell Westbrook...if he played football and you programmed him with Anderson Silva's killer instinct.
Those are the 5 words that come to mind when I think of Ramsey. This is a player that, when around the line of scrimmage, can single-handedly alter plays with his aggression. Whether it's blitzing off the edge, bullying a receiver back on a screen, or tipping a pass, he does it. It all starts with his demeanor. That attitude leads into the next 2 words that came to mind. Ramsey is an arrogant SOB and when he makes a play, he'll let you know. He'll talk. And talk. Then talk some more.
He's a ridiculous competitor that talks so much trash to his opponent that they're a mental midget by the 4th quarter
That's the best possible way I can describe what Ramsey is and I mean that in the most positive way possible. Football is a game full of emotion and when the guy across from you is kicking your ass all game and letting you know about it, it takes a toll on your psyche.
Ramsey is a versatile defender. Where FSU needed help the most for that specific game, they put him there. In 2015 he was primarily a boundary CB left on an island. In 2014, he played everywhere. If FSU feared the opposing teams passing game, then they would put him deep at free safety, like they did against Louisville and Oregon. If they were worried about a team getting to the edge, like Georgia Tech, then he played basically a strong side linebacker in a 4-3 under look. For the majority of the year he played in the slot with man responsibilities. Date back to 2013, he played in the box sometimes but the majority of the time he was a deep safety and that's where you could really see his range and his ability to jar the ball loose with big hits.
Best of all, he's a gamer. When the Seminoles needed a play, whether 4th and 2 and he had to shed a block to make a stop, or 3rd and long and he jumps the route and breaks up the pass, Ramsey came up with his best play at the biggest moments of the game. That has to be accounted for. You want those players on your team.
Areas of Improvement
I'm not going to pretend Ramsey is a flawless prospect. He has plenty of areas where he can improve. He's an inconsistent tackler. It's mostly in his form. There are plays you can reel together where it's textbook. Then there are plays where Ramsey comes flying up with 1 arm and misses or, worst of all, he'll leave his feet and give himself no shot at making a tackle.
At CB I noticed when Ramsey was in press coverage he takes a big hop on the WRs initial step, which puts him out of position from the jump. He then compounds the mistake by swiping, imagine throwing a left/right hook, instead stabbing, imagine a jab, the WRs chest plate. When he doesn't take the hop and is patient at the line, he looks like Richard Sherman throughout the route. If he does play in the slot and is pressing next year and doesn't but this hop out, he'll struggle with shiftier receivers. He needs to be more consistent. In off coverage, Ramsey relies too much on his recovery speed and it causes him to look more stiff than he actual is. He's far from a linear athlete but changing directions isn't what I would call his strength, either. He plays a little too reactive instead of instinctive in coverage.
The final areas of concern you could say are being nitpicky but it shows up enough where it has to be brought up. I mentioned he's energetic. No question he brings it. You can also see plays where it looks like he's saving himself and content with being blocked. That happened more this year and I've seen this with more and more college athletes. 2014 this wasn't an issue. The real issue I have is Ramsey overly concerned with embarrassing the oncoming blocker and losing track of the actual ball carrier and trying to make a play. Here is an example:
Instead of that, why not just attack the blocker under control, stand him up, and shed him to make the tackle. I know he can do it. He did it plenty of times. Just wonder if all that talking he's doing is distracting him at times from the ultimate goal. Just a thought.
Okay, enough of the negative. Let's get to why I'm writing this. Ramsey is really friggin' good. Let's go through the aspects of his game that makes him such an enticing prospect.
Causing chaos off the edge
It's one thing to be uber athletic. It's another to put said athleticism at work and cause chaos for opposing offenses. That's what Ramsey does around the line of scrimmage. In 2014 as a slot defender Ramsey broke up 24 passes and a handful of those came as he was rushing the QB. This year he broke at 6 passes at the line of scrimmage. When he knows he can't get there Ramsey has great awareness to get his hands up. There were plenty of occasions where he jumped up and got in the throwing lane of the passer and allowed another one of his teammates to finish the play.
How fed up are you watching a DB blitz and not have any sort of impact as he's doing so. This is an area where Ramsey truly excels. Whether it's beating guards or tackles with speed, or over powering running backs, he has such an advantage off the edge and FSU took advantage of that. Below is Ramsey coming off the edge on the bottom of the screen:
He chest passes the RB out of the way and is able to finish the sack. He did the exact same thing against Virginia's RB. Where you can tell Ramsey is a true playmaker is that he's looking for a turnover. He's looking for a strip sack. We see that below.
How many defensive backs rush knowing "1 arm is longer than 2?" These are the skills that you see with Ramsey that set him apart. Keeps his whole right side clean and because of this he's able to pick force a fumble.
As a blitzer, he's everything you want because he can be disruptive in so many ways. Moving out to the slot, that's when you see a different kind of animal. This is where, when fully engaged, he has the initial pop to jolt receivers back a few yards. It's impressive.
Ramsey is a player that if he decides he's not going to be blocked then you're not going to block him. I don't want to litter you with vines but this shows up every game. Screens and sweeps his way go nowhere. Hard to imagine this not translating the way tight ends and receivers block at the next level. Again, something that has to be accounted for.
These next 2 plays are gamer plays. Both happen on 4th down, when you need your best player to step up. It's a screen and instead of waiting passively on the blocker, Ramsey is the aggressor. Again, the demeanor you want on your team.
He beats the receivers block and makes the tackle for loss before the lineman can even get out. That's a game saving play. This next play it's 4th and 2. It's Ramsey, the receiver, and the running back. Ramsey fights off the block comes up under control with a perfect wrap up tackle.
These are "money downs" where you can either get lucky and have the right call on or where your best players can step up and make a play. Ramsey is the wildcard you want on your team because in peak moments of the game is where he shows up.
Impressive on an island
Where San Diego lacks the most is when it comes to covering tight ends and essentially all things underneath and over the middle of the field. The only team worse at covering TEs were the Saints who had a historically bad defense. The only other team to give up more yards underneath than them were the Jags. This is where Ramsey erases all of this. If he knows you can't run by him then it's RIP for you. He's going to sit on your route and beat you to the spot. If he gets his hands on your first, goodnight.
That's obviously an extreme example but he has the length to control you and good luck getting past 5 yards. Watch his feet in that vine, though. No hop with a proper stab. FSU played a lot of man and rotated their safeties away from Ramsey. For much of the season he played on an island. What you really like is his ability to find the ball and break up passes.
It's not just in man coverage, though. When he's playing in a Cover 2 type scheme he baits the QB and can leap to break up passes that he has no business breaking up. I trust him in man coverage better than anyone in the draft that isn't a certain West Virginia safety. I don't think anyone is better in zone than Ramsey. The luxury he gives a team is that he's going to be 1 of your 3 best corners. So on obvious passing downs Ramsey can cover one of the opposing teams top threats.
Why he's the pick
Clary left, Telesco drafts Fluker. Vacancy at CB, Telesco drafts Verrett. Vacancy at RB, Telesco drafts Gordon. He drafts based on need and with the best player on the defense leaving, he's going to fill that position of need. The good news is Ramsey isn't just a need pick but he's would be the best player available. Don't limit Ramsey. That's the most important thing. If you're afraid of a deep threat on the opposing offense, put him over the top and he'll eliminate the big play. If you need someone to stop the opposing TE from eating you up underneath, Ramsey can slide down in that role. If you're like most teams in the NFL and need an extra CB on 3rd downs because your pass rush can't get home, have Ramsey guard a receiver.
This is a draft with few, if any, elite talents. Ramsey is one of them. It's hard to put Ramsey's explosive athleticism into context. Last year his best long jump was 26 1/2 feet, which would've been good for 5th best at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. He ran the lead leg on the 4x100 meter team. I know the stride lengths are different but his 100m time is a full tenth faster than Brandin Cooks, to put his speed into perspective. I don't believe he has his instincts, but Ramsey can be the type of player Harrison Smith is. Smith has been the best safety in the NFL for 2 years. Smith plays all over and does everything at an extremely high level. His usage is how exactly I would use Ramsey.
Ramsey is an alpha male. The type of player that holds his teammates accountable and exudes energy off onto his teammates with his play. In this draft he's the type of playmaker that you're going to regret passing up. I'm not picking anyone over Ramsey for all the reasons listed above. Athleticism matters. Impact plays matter. Completely overhauling the attitude of the defense with 1 player matters. That's Ramsey.