The term "shutdown corner" has been recently appraised by NFL analysts and athletes, alike. With the current climate of NFL on field regulations, some view the position as one on the decline. Although the corner position may be threatened by the increasing league lean toward appeasing to fantasy football, last year indicated teams aren't ready to see the position go the way of the running back. A total of four corners (Trae Waynes, Kevin Johnson, Marcus Peters, Byron Jones, and Damarious Randall) went in the first round of the 2015 NFL draft, and teams are still willing to shell out top dollar for the best cornerback free agents.
Enter Jalen Ramsey, formerly of the Florida State Seminoles and current candidate for the Tennessee Titans' number one overall pick. The latter development is rather groundbreaking considering no defensive back has gone first overall since Gary Click in 1956. Even so, defensive back has historically been a rather safe bet within the top 10 picks of the draft. Charles Woodson, Patrick Peterson, Champ Bailey, Joe Haden, Eric Berry, and others, have all been successful testimonies for the position at the top of the draft. Conversely, recent selections of Justin Gilbert, Dee Milliner, and Morris Claiborne may give teams pause. The question is, where does Jalen Ramsey fit? Will he continue to preserve the mold of the shutdown corner, or will he be just another victim of the system?
Jalen Ramsey | DB | Florida State
Tale of the Tape:
- Height: 6'1"
- Weight: 209 lbs.
- Arm: 33 3/8"
- Hands: 9 1/2"
- 40-yard dash: 4.41 sec.
- 3 cone: 6.94 sec.
- 20-yard shuttle: 4.18 sec.
- 60-yard shuttle: 11.10 sec.
- Vert: 41.5"
- Broad: 135"
- Bench: 14 reps.
In terms of physical ability, Ramsey leaves little to be desired. Ramsey displays beyond the pre-requisite size and length while trading nothing when it comes to athletic ability. Ramsey also eschews any rawness in his game by showing a refined back-pedal and ability to break on passes. While not quite the athletic anomaly of Calvin Johnson, Ramsey's combine measurements and numbers are nothing but striking at his position.
On the field, Ramsey was an absolute nuisance for quarterbacks. His length, movement skills, and football instincts shrunk passing lanes and gave college quarterbacks a glimpse of NFL passing windows.
Ramsey exemplifies what a modern NFL cornerback must be able to do to overcome legislation against the position group. Ramsey is physical - particularly at the line of scrimmage - but is relatively hands off when it comes to his coverage down the field. While some analysts are suggesting Ramsey play safety in the NFL - in part due to him playing the position effectively in 2014 - Ramsey's traits are far rarer and necessary at corner.
With players like Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, and Larry Fitzgerald seeing more and more playing time form the slot, a true "shutdown" corner must be able to travel and take on challenges closer to the hashes. Ramsey's history playing safety and slot corner at Florida State are proof of his ability to harass receivers even when they have a two-way go.
For a player with so much glow, even the duller parts of his game could be viewed as strengths for a lesser prospect. The most conspicuous question mark about Ramsey are his lack of forced turnovers at Florida State. Ramsey forced a total of seven turnovers in his college career and only three of those were interceptions. These numbers should logically lead an observer to consider Ramsey's ball skills, or lack thereof.
As the old saying goes, if his hands were any better, he'd be a wide receiver. While that isn't quite the case for all athletes, there is truth to idea that some players simply don't have good hands. While Ramsey has good "ball skills" in the sense he has good instincts and gets his hands in contact with the football, he isn't going to bring many into his grasps.
Ramsey also showed a lack of awareness in plays further down the field where safeties typically make plays on the ball. There were enough instances in both 2014 and 2015 where Ramsey got lost in both zone and man coverage and a receiver made him look bad. This observation partly leads to the conclusion that Ramsey makes a better corner than safety, particularly if he's asked to play deep middle.
Lastly, despite being a physical player, Ramsey isn't a particularly good tackler - even for a defensive back. Being 6'1" and having a lean build seems to thwart Ramsey's ability to get low and perform traditional form tacklers. He's not the type to shy away from contact, but he's also not the type to stop a runner cold from crossing the goal line or getting a first down.
Simply put, Ramsey is a disrupter more than a playmaker. While watching Ramsey's game tape, the immediate cross-sport comparison that comes to mind is NBA defensive maestro, Tony Allen. Ramsey isn't the type of player who lives for the picks 6's or lobbies for plays on offense, but rather shows a natural disposition for making life difficult for the offense.
A more apropos comparison for Ramsey would be the Denver Broncos' Aqib Talib. Like Talib, Ramsey isn't going to make a living with highlight reel plays, but he will tilt the field in the defense's favor on a play to play basis. Similar to the chain moving possession receiver or the power back who can wear down a defense, Ramsey is an all-around unpleasant force to deal with. The Titans have been rumored to have a number of options at the top of the draft, including taking fellow top prospect Laremy Tunsil or trading back to acquire more picks, but Ramsey may be the safest and most prudent selection when all is said and done. His ability is unquestionable and his craft is razor sharp. Like being dealt an ace in black jack, few bets offer as much safety (no pun intended) and reassurance than Jalen Ramsey.