Four years ago, Jalen Ramsey was a first round pick. In fact, he was a very high pick, going fifth overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The LA Rams technically could have had him then, but they moved up for a quarterback. The Philadelphia Eagles did the same. The LA Chargers selected Joey Bosa and the Dallas Cowboys elected to go with Ezekiel Elliott. There was a chance that Ramsey could have gone as high as third overall to the Chargers in many scenarios, but he probably hit his draft selection floor at pick five because he was just that good of a prospect.
Four years later, he’s done nearly everything in his power to meet and exceed the expectations that teams had for him leading up to the 2016 NFL Draft.
In 2016, the Jaguars improved to 15th against the pass (by DVOA) with the rookie Ramsey after finishing 31st the year before. As a rookie, Ramsey played in all 16 games, intercepted two passes, and had 14 passes defensed.
In 2017, the Jaguars ranked first in pass defense and Ramsey was named as a first team All-Pro. He intercepted four passes and deflected 17. Jacksonville’s defense (and franchise) deteriorated again in 2018 but Ramsey remained one of the top players at his position, intercepting three passes and deflecting 13 away.
That’s when things got weird and Ramsey forced his way into a trade out of the Jags locker room, landing in LA in exchange for two first round picks and a fourth rounder. He finished with only five passes defensed and one interception yada yada, but what we know of him already is that Ramsey is a three-time Pro Bowl, one-time All-Pro corner who doesn’t turn 26 until October and frankly he’s wasted as anything other than a great player on a really good defense.
There are certainly times where two first round picks for any player, even a player of Ramsey’s caliber, is too costly. But considering the state of the 2020 NFL Draft and offseason, I think that the Rams accidentally happened to get even better value for Ramsey than they could have imagined when they shipped those two first rounders off to acquire him.
As it stands now, LA is one of six teams who don’t have a first round pick for April 23. The others are:
- The Indianapolis Colts, for DeForest Buckner
- The Pittsburgh Steelers, for Minkah Fitzpatrick
- The Chicago Bears, for Khalil Mack
- The Rams, for Ramsey
- The Buffalo Bills, for Stefon Diggs
- The Houston Texans, for Laremy Tunsil
Strangely (I think strangely, at least) not a single one of these picks was acquired in a deal made of picks last year. They were all shipped off for proven veteran players. In the case of Mack, it was made two seasons ago, before we could have known much of anything about the 2020 class. The Texans made their move for Tunsil last offseason. The Steelers opted to take advantage of Fitzpatrick being available midseason and I think are probably quite happy with their new elite safety over having to dip into the middle of the first round this year. The Colts and Bills made their trades within the last month, maybe seeing ahead to a world where the draft has the potential to be a complete nightmare for some organizations.
That’s why I think that if there was ever a moment to “celebrate” getting a break from the first round of the draft, it would be in 2020.
Not even having a first rounder, Pittsburgh GM Kevin Colbert is asking for three more rounds to be added this year. Why? Because there’s going to be such a huge margin of error, he expects. Teams did not get pro days with many of the top college programs. The league was lucky to even get the scouting combine done before all the major shutdowns began to happen around March 11.
Individual in-person meetings with prospects were also prohibited, forcing teams to go with FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, phone calls, and the like. Physical examinations? Not a chance. Prospects who didn’t get invited to the combine? Too bad. The fact that a large chunk of the draft every year is made up of players who didn’t get combine invites? Oh well.
I imagine that some teams will find April 23 to be very difficult. If the teams had been given 12-24 months to prepare for this — as I imagine would have been the case if this was a plan at all — there would still be errors along the way. You have to allow for a certain number of mistakes during beta testing. Instead, teams have less than six weeks.
I don’t know if Sean McVay will be one of the coaches to get frustrated with a completely virtual, remote, online draft — perhaps this is where his youth comes in handy — but I do know that as of last weekend, he thought he’d just gather the war room at his house and as of Monday, we know that the NFL disallowed any notion of “gatherings.” It tells me that even head coaches are learning new things every day about how many complications there are going to be during the draft, which tells me that of course commissioner Roger Goodell also can’t quite plan a future of unexpected twists and turns surrounding the draft.
Instead, Goodell must feel he has to push through regardless of the complications. A “shitshow” draft is better than no draft at all.
That’s one reason to maybe be thankful that an All-Pro cornerback is worth no first rounders for two years.