TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – It’s the obvious next step for Jalen Ramsey. Since his days as a youth football player growing up around Nashville, Ramsey’s path has been clear: prep football star, five-star recruit, college All-American. With those three already checked off, the former Florida State defensive back is set to add one more milestone this week – first-round draft pick.
The NFL draft begins Thursday in Chicago and every draft pundit in the country considers Ramsey a lock to be taken in the first round.
The only question surrounding Ramsey is whether he’ll play cornerback or safety, but it hardly seems enough to deter a team from using a high pick to select him.
“That dual versatility is a huge plus in the NFL right now,” said ESPN analyst Mel Kiper, who compared Ramsey to Hall-of-Famer Rod Woodson.
While he likely won’t be taken first or second – Los Angeles and Philadelphia both seem intent on choosing quarterbacks from those spots – no major mock draft projects Ramsey outside of the top five.
Which means San Diego at No. 3, Dallas at No. 4 or Jacksonville at No. 5 are all strong possibilities.
“He’s got length, he’s got world-class speed,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock told NFL.com. “Even when he gets beat off the line of scrimmage in press coverage. It’s amazing to see his catch-up speed. It’s like, ‘beep, beep’ and he’s there.”
Mayock said he believes the Cowboys “have to pull the trigger,” on Ramsey if he’s available.
If they do, Ramsey will become the second Seminole drafted in the top five in the last two seasons (quarterback Jameis Winston became FSU’s first No. 1 overall pick a year ago), and the eighth first-round pick under coach Jimbo Fisher. He’d also surpass Deion Sanders (fifth overall in 1989) and Terrell Buckley (fifth in 1992) as FSU’s highest-drafted DB of all time.
Regardless, Ramsey is virtually assured of becoming FSU’s 43rd first-rounder, which would give the Fisher era a whopping 18.6 percent of FSU’s first-round output in just six years.
“First of all, we’re evaluating the right guys,” Fisher said. “But two, we’re doing the things internally to help these guys develop and they’re buying into it.”
While Ramsey will be the first Seminole selected, he likely won’t be the last. Roberto Aguayo, a three-time All-American and the 2013 Lou Groza Award winner, is the draft’s top kicking prospect in several seasons.
He told reporters at last month’s FSU Pro Day that he expects be drafted between the second and fourth rounds. No kicker has been taken in the first round since FSU’s Sebastian Janikowski in 2000, and it’s been more than a decade since one was selected as high as the second (Mike Nugent, 2005).
Elsewhere, several former Seminole defensive stalwarts are hoping to hear their names called this weekend. Among them are linebackers Terrance Smith and Reggie Northrup, linemen Nile Lawrence-Stample and Giorgio Newberry, and defensive backs Lamarcus Brutus and Javien Elliott.
Round 1 starts Thursday at 8 p.m. The draft will then continue with Rounds 2 and 3 starting at 7 p.m., Friday and ends with Rounds 4-7 at noon on Saturday. ESPN and the NFL Network will both carry live coverage.
Seminoles in the 2016 NFL Draft:
Jalen Ramsey, DB
Projections: Ramsey has emerged as the consensus top defensive back in the draft and some analysts even have him as the No. 1 overall player available. While specific team needs will likely keep him from being selected first, he could easily be the first non-QB off the board. A warm-weather destination seems likely. San Diego, Dallas and Jacksonville own the Nos. 3-5 picks.
NFL.com grade: 6.83 (Chance to become a Pro Bowl-caliber player)
What they’re saying: “He plays like a cornerback, thinks like a safety, hits like a linebacker. That’s why I think he’s the best player in this draft class—he plays multiple positions at a very high level, and those positions are among the most important in the game.” – Doug Farrar, Sports Illustrated
Roberto Aguayo, PK
Projections: Kickers don’t usually leave school early, and they’re not usually taken with high draft picks. Then again, Roberto Aguayo isn’t your usual kicker. The three-time All-American accomplished all he could at the college level, and, with his rock-solid consistency, could tempt several general managers come draft day. New rules changes to both extra-point attempts and touchbacks should only help Aguayo, who never missed from inside 40 yards while at FSU. He’ll likely hear his name called on Friday or early Saturday.
NFL.com grade: 5.5 (Chance to become an NFL starter)
What they’re saying: “Florida State could end up having four kickers in the NFL this upcoming season. Janikowski, Carolina’s Graham Gano and Washington’s Dustin Hopkins. Of the four, Janikowski still has the more powerful leg but Aguayo is considered to be more complete.” – Joe Reedy, Associated Press
Nile Lawrence-Stample, DT
Projections: Oversized defensive linemen are always in demand, and while Lawrence-Stample might not be as tall as the average NFL run-stuffer, his 320-pound frame should help fill the gaps. An impressive workout at FSU’s Pro Day last month gave his stock a boost, and most outlets project Lawrence-Stample as a third-day pick.
NFL.com grade: 5.2 (NFL backup or special teams potential)
What they’re saying: “While he has shown the ability to play multiple positions along the defensive front, Lawrence-Stample is ideal over center. He will give you some pass rush. He lacks ideal height and needs to continue to progress with his technique.” – Jamie Newberg, CBSSports.com
Terrance Smith, LB
Projections: With a rash of injuries hopefully behind him, Smith’s versatility might help him stand out to NFL front offices. He played multiple linebacker positions at FSU and could also contribute on special teams. Both CBS and NFL.com project Smith as either a late draft pick or potential high-priority free agent.
NFL.com grade: 5.2 (NFL backup or special teams potential)
What they’re saying: “Smith has next-level potential and with development in some areas, he should at worst be a key special teams performer in the NFL. His aggressive mentality will serve him well.” – Dane Brugler, CBSSports.com
Reggie Northrup, LB
Projections: One of the key pieces of FSU’s defense over the last few years, Northrup is considered by most draft pundits to be an undrafted free agent.
NFL.com grade 4.9 (Should be in an NFL training camp)
What they’re saying: “Built like (an) inside ‘backer with thick legs and compact frame. Will diagnose and go.” – Lance Zierlein, NFL.com
Lamarcus Brutus, S
Projections: A late bloomer who turned out to be one of the FSU defense’s most pleasant surprises over the last few years, Brutus is hoping his football smarts and experience can carve out a place on a pro roster. Most projections have Brutus signing as an undrafted free agent. Incidentally, Brutus appeared on NFL.com’s draft “All-Name” team, alongside the likes of Arizona’s Scooby Wright III, Auburn’s Cassanova McKinzy and UCLA’s John Christian Ka’iminoeauloameka’ikeokekumupa’a Fairbairn.
NFL.com grade: 4.96 (Should be in an NFL training camp)
What they’re saying: “Brutus plays an intelligent, instinct-based game that puts him in good position most of time, but his lack of speed tends to limit him into deep safety responsibilities much of the time.” – Lance Zierlein, NFL.com
Giorgio Newberry, DE
Projections: Outside of Ramsey and Aguayo, perhaps no Seminole has generated more buzz this draft season than Newberry. That’s thanks to a surprisingly strong senior season and then an impressive showing at Pro day last month. Newberry is still considered to have an outside chance to be drafted, but a 4.84 40-yard dash, combined with a 6-5, 285-pound frame, could allow him to sneak into the later rounds.
NFL.com grade: 4.85 (Should be in an NFL training camp)
What they’re saying: “How many 6-6, 290-pound guys are there that can run, change direction, play with power, length, speed, There’s not many guys like that.” – FSU coach Jimbo Fisher
Other draft-eligible Seminoles:
DB Javien Elliott
DB Tyler Hunter
P Cason Beatty
DL Derrick Mitchell
LB Lorenzo Phillips
DB Keelin Smith