Soon after ESPN’s Jon Gruden was finished trashing Jalen Ramsey’s “effort” and “urgency” to get to the football, the former Florida State defensive back had a message for the Jacksonville Jaguars, who had just selected him with the fifth overall pick.
“I’m a corner who can play safety. … shutdown corner,” Ramsey told Deion Sanders on the NFL Network.
Ramsey, 6-foot-1, 209, was available for the Jaguars after the Chargers and Cowboys both opted for players from Ohio State, San Diego taking defensive end Joey Bosa and Dallas adding to their backfield depth with running back Ezekiel Elliott.
That left Ramsey as a no-brainer for the team that plays about two hours east of Tallahassee and finished 29th in the NFL in passing defense.
“It was an easy pick,” Jags GM David Caldwell told the media at the team’s draft headquarters.
“We’re fortunate he fell to us,” Jaguars coach Gus Bradley added.
And although Ramsey spoke about his affection for the Cowboys during pre-draft workouts, saying he grew up a Dallas fan, he quickly turned that page.
“My phone started ringing, I saw a 904 number and I didn’t let it get past the first ring,” Ramsey told reporters in Jacksonville.
The player Ramsey has been measured against in this draft because of their position and schools, Florida’s Vernon Hargreaves, was taken six picks later, going No. 11 to his hometown team, Tampa Bay. Hargreaves is from Tampa and starred at Wharton High School.
Hargreaves now is a teammate of former FSU Heisman winning quarterback, Jameis Winston.
Ramsey, who started every game during his three years at FSU, including the Seminoles’ 2013 national championship season, was mostly projected to be taken from No. 3 to No. 5. Several mock drafts, though, had him going to the Cowboys with the fourth pick.
Dallas, though, may have been scared off by an unfavorable report concerning Ramsey’s ability to play corner. Many people wonder if Ramsey is better suited to play safety rather than cornerback in the NFL (he played both positions as well as nickel back at FSU) and pointed to his lack of “ball skills” when evaluating him as a corner. Ramsey had just three interceptions at Florida State, none last season. He dropped several interception opportunities.
Caldwell told reporters Ramsey will be at cornerback to start and possibly play some nickel.
“We went from a good group (at cornerback) to a very good group,” Caldwell said.
The Jaguars are getting the player some, including Sports Illustrated, tabbed as the No. 1 prospect in the draft. He had the top vertical jump (41.5 inches) and long jump (11-feet, 3-inches) at the NFL Combine and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds.
Still, Gruden was not impressed.
“It’s clear to me he is not a safety,” Gruden said. “I was uncomfortable with him, especially in the Rose Bowl (loss to Oregon after the 2014 season). I just didn’t like his playing style. I didn’t see his urgency to get to the football. He’s got to pick up his down-to-down effort, get to the football, use his athleticism, the speed all the instincts I keep reading about. I didn’t feel comfortable about him playing deep.”
Gruden added he sees Ramsey as a “press corner all the way.”
But FSU coach Jimbo Fisher offered the counter to Gruden.
“He earned every bit of this with his work ethic and his passion for the game,” Fisher said in a statement. “He will be a tremendous player for the Jacksonville Jaguars.”
Ramsey is the eighth FSU player taken in the top 5 of the draft. Winston was the top overall pick a year ago.
Hargreaves is just the second Gators cornerback taken in the first round, joining Joe Haden in 2010. He was the third cornerback selected Thursday behind Ramsey and Eli Apple of Ohio State, who went one pick earlier to the Giants. The knock on Hargreaves is his size (5-10, 204 pounds). He had trouble covering bigger receivers like Alabama’s Amari Cooper and FSU’s Kelvin Benjamin.
Hargreaves was asked at his Pro Day about possibly being picked by his hometown team.
“That would be good, that would be amazing,” he said. “My mom would be right down the street, so that would be good. We’ll see how it plays out.”
Another defensive back from the state was taken in the first round when the Falcons grabbed Gators safety Keanu Neal with the 17th pick.