A 21-year-old defensive back is climbing up NFL draft boards — and it says a lot about the current state of the NFL

Jalen ramsey
Jalen Ramsey is climbing up draft boards. Joe Robbins/Getty

With the NFL Draft less than four weeks away, a new player is making a run as the potential No. 1 pick.

In recent weeks, 21-year-old defensive back Jalen Ramsey has been sneaking up NFL draft boards and making a case as the top pick.

In mid-February, draft experts had Ramsey in the top five, usually around the No. 3-5 pick. However, after an impressive pro day, the Florida State defensive back suddenly finds himself earning consideration as the best player in the draft, which could have him going to the Titans with the first pick.

While Ramsey is mostly seen as a cornerback, at 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, he can move around the field, including playing as a middle-of-the-field safety, guarding slot receivers, or stopping runs. This versatility is what makes him extremely appealing to teams and perhaps too good to pass up.

And if Ramsey goes first, it will demonstrate the direction the NFL is heading. As Sports Illustrated’s Peter King noted, the number of snaps where a team had five or more defensive backs on the field at the same time has been rising for seven years. Additionally, last season, the NFL saw a record in touchdown passes and completion rate. With passing on the rise, teams need a player capable of making defensive plays.

Ramsey might not just be capable of making plays — he could have game-changing skills. According to The Tennessean’s John Glennon, a defensive back hasn’t been taken with the first pick since 1970. Yet NFL Network’s Charles Davis has Ramsey as the No. 1 pick in his mock draft and told Glennon that Ramsey that the Titans should consider him.

“I will say that having talked to people in Tennessee, I’m firmly convinced he’s in the discussion about whether they pick him at No. 1 overall,” Davis said. “It’s in the discussion because he has that type of playmaking ability.”

Pro Football Focus, which had Ramsey as the fourth pick in February, now has him as the No. 1 pick in their most recent mock draft. They gushed over his potential, saying:

He’s an excellent all-around football player as he can cover, tackle and play the run. For the Titans, he will excel as a zone corner where his length and athleticism allow him to compress passing lanes as he develops his skills as a press man coverage cornerback. He has the size and length to become one of the league’s best, and given his domination at the combine, the physical attributes are there as well.

According to NFL Network’s Albert Breer, Ramsey wowed at his pro day, so much so that a team drafting later in the top 10 told him, “Guess we won’t have a shot at you.”

Ramsey showed off his 4.41 40-yard-dash time and his 41-inch vertical in drills:

ESPN’s Mark Dominik, a former NFL GM, told Glennon that Ramsey has to be in the discussion for the top pick “just because the way the game is being played now as a passing league. When you can find a player with his skill set, you have to have strong consideration.”

Even current NFL passers understand the affect Ramsey could have. Jameis Winston, who played with Ramsey at FSU, recently told Mark Cook of the Pewter Report that the Tampa Bay Bucs should move up to draft Ramsey, saying “People talk about his position. But Jalen is the best cornerback, safety… I will take a pay cut to play with him again. He has a fierce mentality.”

Taking Ramsey first would be a leap for the Titans, particularly because teams have had success at finding cornerbacks late in the draft. However, Ramsey is making his case, and the Titans, who are rumoured to be shopping their pick, might become too enamoured with Ramsey’s skills to pass him up.

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