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 in the NFL Draft on Thursday night.
“I’m a corner who can play safety … shutdown corner,” Ramsey told Deion Sanders on the NFL Network.
Ramsey, at 6-1, 209, was available for the Jaguars after the Chargers and Cowboys both opted for players from Ohio State, with San Diego taking defensive end Joey Bosa and Dallas adding to its 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,” Jaguars general manager David Caldwell said.
“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.
Ramsey, who left FSU after three years in which he started every game, 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, might have been scared off by an unfavorable report concerning Ramsey’s ability to play corner. Many wonder if Ramsey is better suited to play safety or 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. And he had his chances but dropped several interception opportunities.
The Jaguars, though, made it clear where he will play when Caldwell told reporters he 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 Jags are getting the player some, including Sports Illustrated, tabbed as the draft’s top prospect. 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. 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. I want to see this young man pick up his down-to-down urgency.”