ATLANTA -- Whenever I hear multiple scouts refer to a top prospect as a "baller", I make it a point to check him out in a big game to see if the performance matches the hype. After hearing the buzz on Florida State CB Jalen Ramsey, I couldn't wait to see him take on Houston in the Peach Bowl. Given the high-octane nature of the Cougars' offense and the number of explosive playmakers on the perimeter, I thought this was the perfect game to assess Ramsey's skills. After conducting an extensive film study and taking copious notes from Florida State's 38-24 loss to Houston in the Peach Bowl, here's my take on the Seminoles' budding superstar:
Ramsey is a fluid athlete with outstanding agility and movement skills. He quickly flows through transitions and breaks, exhibiting terrific balance and body control. Ramsey shows above-average speed and burst, yet appears to have little problem staying in the hip pocket of speedy receivers down the field. With Ramsey also displaying top leaping ability, there is little concern about his overall athleticism and explosiveness as a perimeter defender.
It is hard to find cornerbacks with a "knockout" mentality on the field, Ramsey is one of the most physical corners that I've watched on tape. He plays with an ultra-aggressive demeanor; his physicality and toughness is reflected in his willingness to hit runners squarely on the perimeter. While his tackling skills are solid, I was most impressed by his instincts and awareness as run defender. Ramsey isn't afraid to mix it up, and his overall aggressiveness could make him a standout hybrid defender (corner-safety-nickel) at the next level.
Ramsey is a natural cover corner with fluid movement skills and sound technique. He is a rare corner capable of utilizing a variety of techniques (press and off) to blanket receivers on the perimeter. Although Ramsey's versatility is impressive, he is at his best when aligned nose to nose on receivers in bump and run coverage. He possesses the length to strike receivers with strong jams, but he also flashes enough lateral quickness and swivel to shadow receivers without making contact.
As a zone defender, Ramsey shows great vision, instincts and awareness. He has a nice feel for reading routes. Most important, Ramsey isn't afraid to pull the trigger when he sees the ball come out. Although his instinctive aggressiveness isn't reflected on the stat sheet, evaluators will fall in love with his overall playmaking ability when scouting the tape.
Against Houston, Ramsey initially aligned at "boundary" corner and snuffed out receivers with his aggressive technique. However, he later "traveled" to shadow the Cougars' WR1 (Demarcus Ayers) after he made a few plays on the perimeter. Ramsey's versatility, competitiveness and football IQ will prompt defensive coordinators to build sub-packages (nickel and dime) around his unique talents as a cover corner.
For all of the physical traits needed to thrive as a defensive back as a pro, defensive coaches covet playmakers with high football IQs. Given that fact, I would expect evaluators to fall in love with Ramsey based on his natural instincts, awareness and diagnostic skills. He has a terrific feel for the game and his ability seamless transition to multiple positions in the secondary suggests that he understands where he fits in the puzzle. With more NFL teams searching for smart defenders with diverse skills, Ramsey's intelligence and awareness will make him a huge asset to a dynamic defense.
Ramsey is a rare find as an ultra-competitive hybrid defensive back with exceptional skills and a high football IQ. He can start at LCB for an NFL squad from Day 1, but he might be best suited for a chameleon role as a pro. Ramsey is instinctive and dynamic around the box that he should thrive as a nickel defender in an exotic defense. If I had to compare him to a current pro, I would cite Charles Woodson based on his unique skills as a multifaceted playmaker. With more teams searching for electric talents in the back end, Ramsey should be viewed as a blue-chip talent whenever he enters the draft.