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For second straight year, Jags’ top pick goes down early with injury

The Jacksonville Jaguars’ top pick in the 2016 draft, Jalen Ramsey, suffered a small tear in his right meniscus. 

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For the second straight season, the Jaguars’ first-round draft pick has suffered an injury before the start of OTAs—and in both situations, the player involved was likely the best player of his draft class. On Thursday, Jacksonville released a statement that former Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey suffered a small tear in his right meniscus during Phase Two on-field workouts. According to the statement, Ramsey will receive a second opinion next week, and the proper course of action will be determined by team doctor Kevin Kaplan and the Jaguars’ training staff.

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​The hope is that Ramsey, the No. 5 selection in the 2016 NFL draft, will be available for training camp, though it's all up in the air until the second opinion comes through, and everything is medically confirmed. It’s worth noting that this is the same knee that required microfracture surgery during Ramsey’s high-school sophomore season, through he showed no ill effects from that surgery throughout his time at Florida State. Based on the course of treatment, he could be out for weeks or months—it all depends on the options of surgery versus rest and time.

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, the difference between rest and repair depends on where the meniscus is torn—the inside or outside part. A small tear on the outer edge of the meniscus can be rehabilitated with rest; however, a more severe outside tear or an injury to the inner part can require arthroscopic surgery.

Ramsey was drafted for his effective athleticism that allowed him to transition seamlessly between safety, slot and cornerback throughout his career at Florida State, where he racked up 122 solo tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, five sacks, three interceptions and 22 passes defenses in three years. But the stats don’t tell all with Ramsey—the bigger story is his ability to be truly great at three marquee positions. The Jaguars were (and still are) certainly hoping that adding Ramsey completes a serious overhaul to a defense that underperformed in 2015.

It’s an especially crushing blow, as it comes one year after Florida outside linebacker Dante Fowler, the No. 3 pick in 2015, suffered a torn ACL in the first part of the first day of his rookie minicamp, and missed the entire season. The hope was that Fowler would immediately improve the team’s sub-par pass-rush, but he spent his rookie season rehabbing his knee and waiting impatiently for his first real NFL action.

“I promise you, when I went down, I didn’t think it was a torn ACL,” Fowler told last December. “I thought I had just twisted it or something like that. I had heard so many ACL stories and the pain, but it didn’t hurt.”

But that’s the wayward nature of injury luck—it just happened to hit the Jaguars two years in a row with a top-five draft pick in each case. The Jaguars are also hoping that second-round pick Myles Jack, the hyper-talented linebacker from UCLA, will be ready for the 2016 season after a torn meniscus limited his 2015 season to three games. Jack’s rehab is apparently on schedule, as is Fowler’s, and if both players can see the field this season, it would take some of the sting out of Ramsey’s injury.

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The Jaguars also gave serious free-agent money to several defensive players to shore up that side of the ball, including former Broncos defensive lineman Malik Jackson, former Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara, and ex-Browns free safety Tashaun Gipson. It’s expected that Gipson can pick up whatever slack there was to be with Ramsey playing that position, though the more common expectation is that Jacksonville is projecting Ramsey as an aggressive press cornerback in the Richard Sherman or Patrick Peterson mold.

And if that’s the case, any practice time lost due to injury will have a major impact. Ramsey played cornerback in his freshman year of college—in fact, he was the first Florida State freshman cornerback to start his first true freshman game since Deion Sanders did it 30 years ago. Then, through the 2013 and ’14 season, Ramsey played the “STAR” hybrid position, moving back to cornerback for the 2015 campaign. While he has all the necessary physical characteristics to play cornerback at the highest level, Ramsey will need time to work the little things out. He’s a great press-man cornerback who thrives in contested catch situations, but shows his relative inexperience in off-coverage and against more advanced routes.

All the Jaguars can hope for at this point is that, for the second straight year, they didn’t lose their top pick for the entire season.