By Ty Schalter ,
The NFL Scouting Combine doesn’t always reflect what happens on the field, or what will happen on draft day. But Florida State corner Jalen Ramsey‘s impressive performance reflected every bit of the excellent athlete we all know he is—and unlike some of the players vying for the right to be first off the board, he did nothing but solidify his placement at or near the very top of many evaluators’ lists.
Ramsey lined up for his first run and put on a show:
— NFL (@NFL) February 29, 2016
Ramsey’s official time was 4.41 seconds—fast enough on its own, but absolutely blazing given his 6’1″, 209-pound frame. If there was any doubt the Seminoles track star would back up his reputation with performance, he immediately removed it.
As NFL Media’s Daniel Jeremiah reported on Twitter, many evaluators were disappointed with this group of cornerbacks‘ times, as if having to do their vertical and broad jumps before their 40-yard dash sapped explosion from their legs.
If that’s the case, nobody had more reason to be heavy-legged than Ramsey; he tied Cal tailback Daniel Lasco for the best vertical and broad jumps at the entire combine:
— Cinefunk (@CineFunk) February 29, 2016
As a total performance, Ramsey may have had the best overall combine of any hopeful. With his height, length and specialty as a press-man corner, something less than than extraordinary athleticism wouldn’t hold him back from being an outstanding player in the Richard Sherman mold.
Instead, Ramsey’s MockDraftable.com spider graph is one of the most spectacular you’ll see:
He also looked great in the positional drills, appearing smooth and fast in everything he was asked to do. His freakish athleticism and on-field polish bring up the question of whether his future is indeed at corner.
Ramsey wasn’t asked to do a lot of everything a No. 1 corner must do well in the NFL: zone, off-man, all of the different schemes an NFL defense can play. Letting him roam around the back of a defense and make plays as a free safety might suit him better. On Twitter, Jeremiah called Ramsey “the best CB in the draft…also the best safety in the draft.
Bleacher Report NFL Draft Lead Writer Matt Miller doesn’t understand the critique, because what Ramsey brings to the table is exactly the freakish suite of traits every NFL team wants:
I don’t get the “Is Ramsey only a press CB” talk. I mean, isn’t that what we all want right now is a top-athlete press CB?
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) February 29, 2016
Many began comparing Ramsey to Patrick Peterson, the most bulletproof corner prospect in recent memory, or maybe ever. Miller noted Peterson was his No. 2 overall player in that draft, and Ramsey should get No. 1 overall consideration this year.
Meanwhile, Ramsey’s defensive competition paled by comparison.
End Joey Bosa didn’t have a terrible combine, but he cut weight to run faster and ran a not-that-impressive 4.86. Comparisons to J.J. Watt fall flat, as Bosa ran 21 pounds lighter than Watt did and looked stiff in the bag drills. Hargreaves was less athletic than Ramsey across the board and measured only 5’10”. Noah Spence showed very well, but he has some character questions and less than freaky speed.
The Ramsey/Peterson comparison could be crucial for Ramsey’s first year in the NFL, whether he plays corner or safety. As flawless of a prospect as Peterson was, defensive back is one of the few positions in the NFL where you just can’t skip the learning curve.
Peterson was a first-team All-Pro as a rookie—but as a returner, not as a cornerback. As Pro Football Focus charted, Peterson ranked 101st out of 109 qualifying cornerbacks that season, but it didn’t take him long after that to learn to apply his incredible tools to shutting down elite receivers.
Ramsey may have some similar early struggles, especially if he’s transitioned to safety or drafted by a team that plays a lot of zone. But even if a fellow rookie like Vernon Hargreaves outperforms Ramsey early, the sky-high ceiling Ramsey revealed here means there’s no limit on how high he could go in the 2016 draft.