The Jacksonville Jaguars select Florida State DB Jalen Ramsey with the No. 5 pick in the 2016 NFL draft.
Ramsey is the top player in this year's SI 50, and Jags head coach Gus Bradley must be a bit gobsmacked by his own good luck here. What makes Ramsey special is that he's truly scheme-transcendent at multiple positions—cornerback, safety, and slot defender—and he'll be a force multiplier for Jacksonville's defense from the start. Jacksonville would be smart to start him off as a safety and nickel slot defender. That way, the Jags can take a year developing his CB skills and awaiting his development into the next Charles Woodson. This is a huge addition to an improving defense.
Strengths: Plays press coverage as aggressively and perfectly as you can draw it up. He gets his hands on receivers and tight ends and can re-route them right out of the game. Gets his long arms on targets and will follow them through the route. Beats blocks like a linebacker at times—he plays as if he weighs 10 pounds more than he does. Played linebacker depth with linebacker responsibilities at times and wasn’t overwhelmed from a strength perspective.
As a safety, Ramsey covers the whole field with great speed and understanding of his route, peeling over to stop screens and hitches underneath. Can play free or strong safety in a two-deep shell and centerfielder in a Cover-1 or Cover-3 scheme. As an outside and slot corner, keeps his backpedal low and uncorks quickly to cover. Has the hip turn and fluidity to run with slot receivers and adjust to option routes on the fly. Adept in man and zone schemes—he can tear through routes as a base man corner, but he has the patience to hang back and work with his fellow defenders on handoffs. Raw as a blitzer, but he certainly has the speed and strength to do it.
As an outside cornerback, Ramsey isn’t going to get beaten very often from a quickness perspective. Has the straight-line speed to get legitimate pressures on blitzes. Transitions extremely well from pressing at the start of a route to pattern-matching through a receiver’s quick cuts. Can match most moves receivers put on him and would be a natural in any pattern-read scheme. Sniffs out stutter-go routes as if he’s the one running them. Will use his long arms to time deflections very well. Very tough to get past once he locks inside position to the boundary. Will dominate as a tackler in off-coverage to prevent yards after catch. Force wrap tackler who thrives in the physical facet of the game. A nightmare to deal with in contested catch situations because he can leap with anyone and is very physical in short spaces.
Weaknesses: Competitive temperament can get the best of him at times—occasionally works too hard to wrestle in blocks and doesn’t peel off in time for tackle opportunities. Stat totals are skewed by multiple dropped interceptions throughout his career. Needs to get better with his hands and focus on maximizing interception opportunities. Can get bodied out and fooled by crossing routes when in press coverage. Not always as fast on long angle routes like slants and drags; quicker receivers have been able to run past him to make catches on late-developing plays. Needs work on some of the finer elements of the boundary cornerback position if he’s put there full-time in the NFL. He must flip his hips quicker to deal with speed up the field, catch up on crossing routes and maintain his low backpedal and quick transition on every play. Needs seasoning at cornerback, but he showed a lot in one season out there.