So the problem with having the 29th pick and still nearly two months before the draft remaining is that there are so many guys truly in play and there are seemingly endless scenarios.
That is the case for our beloved 13-time world champion Green Bay Packers, who after a valiant run to the NFC Championship Game after starting the season 4-6 ended in Atlanta, again will be picking late in the first round. While this is usually a scenario for: “We can get a steal!” or “We’ll just let someone fall to us!” that really is translated to: “I have no idea who the Packers could end up with at 29.”
Recently, I’ve seen two mock drafts, including this prominent draft analyst’s most recent edition, where the Packers end up with a Wisconsin Badgers player at the end of the first round, but it’s not T.J. Watt.
Ryan Ramczyk has one of the more uncommon paths to the NFL that you’ll find. While it’s not riddled with tragedy and hardship, it’s certainly far from ordinary.
Ramczyk graduated from Stevens Point Area High School (SPASH) in 2012 as a unranked recruit, but possessed a scholarship offer from Paul Chryst, who had recently taken the Pittsburgh job, and a walk-on offer from Wisconsin and Gary Andersen. Ramczyk didn’t want to travel that far from home, and didn’t want to walk-on at Wisconsin, so he decided to give Winona State (MN) a try. However he un-enrolled before the football season began. He enrolled in a tech school, to major in welding. He attended another tech school before being contacted by UW-Stevens Point’s head coach. He was essentially told, we’ve got a spot for you if you want to play.
Once Ramczyk decided to play, it was game on. He was a 2-time All-WIAC performer for the Pointers, and started every game he played at left tackle. However, after two years at D3, Paul Chryst accepted the job at Wisconsin, and he decided to transfer to Wisconsin to play for Chryst, the only coach to offer him a scholarship out of high school.
The rest as they say, has been history. He redshirted in 2015, and was named the best lineman former Badger and current Cleveland Brown Joe Schobert played against, even if on the scout team. His one year as a starter at UW resulted in an All-American season, and Ramczyk decided to forego his final season to enter the NFL.
Now, here’s the thing: Ramczyk is (comparatively) old. Graduating high school in 2012, he’ll be a 23 year old rookie. Also, he’s not competing at the Combine on Friday because he had surgery due to a torn hip labrum that he played with for a majority of the season.
Now, here’s the part we all care about: on the field, Ramczyk is probably OT1. He’s a dancing bear in pass protection, and he’s a nasty finisher in the run game. Let’s take a look.
Here’s an example of Ramczyk climbing to the second level and showing his mean streak. He does a good job initially of getting to the backside linebacker, but does so a little quickly. This is one of the toughest jobs for a lineman, as linebackers are smaller and more athletic, so the less time you have to block them, the better.
While he gets there a bit early and the linebacker almost slides off, Ramczyk recovers well and buries the linebacker, finishing the block. This is peak Ramczyk in the run game.
Here (while I wish I could show the whole play), Ramczyk does a good job of getting his hands inside, knowing where the play is supposed to go, and swings his butt to the hole, creating an alley for Corey Clement. Especially at tackle, Ramczyk won’t often be asked to move people, as much as shield them from the ball. He displays the ability to do that against the best competition possible here.
So anyone that watched the Packers late in this past season knows that their offensive line gave insane amounts of time to Aaron GOATgers to find receivers downfield. It would be ignorant to think that the Packers don’t prioritize pass protection as the main trait of their offensive linemen. Ramczyk isn’t hyper athletic, but shows all the ability needed to survive outside in the NFL.
Ramczyk starts this rep off by slow-playing the rusher, but as soon as the rusher commits outside Ramczyk is able to accelerate his feet without losing balance or getting out of control. While I would prefer that he kept his shoulders square longer, he never truly gives the rusher a two-way-go, so it worked out. Also, if Clement didn’t horribly whiff on this end, QB Alex Hornibrook could step up in the pocket and deliver an on-target throw.
Here’s Ramczyk anchoring on a power rush, and although the rusher slides off, he’s able to recover and run him past.
Things to Correct
The one thing I noticed when I watched Ramczyk is that he seemed to slack a bit when he thought he’d have help or a chip from the back. You can see here he almost hesitates like Dare Ogunbowale is going to help with Michigan State’s Malik McDowell, but instead gets beat around the outside. Luckily, quarterback Bart Houston got the ball out quickly. This is an odd habit, which should be fixable.
This is one of the only times this season that Ramczyk was beaten badly. Michigan’s Taco Charlton beat Ramczyk on a spin move in pass pro later, but this is simply an example of a good spin move, and Ramczyk should take on more of Charlton, rather than getting to his outside number. (Editor’s note: Ramczyk said on Thursday at the Combine that Charlton was the best lineman he faced in college.)
While Ramczyk lacks the “ideal” experience level (just 14 starts at Division 1), he’s arguably the top tackle prospect in this class. While most of you will shout from the rooftops “We need a cornerback, or pass rusher, you fool!” Ted Thompson has time and time again shown that he will select the best player available, over need. This is exhibited by Thompson’s first ever draft pick, when he selected Aaron Godgers while Brett Favre was still playing well.
Ramczyk would likely play guard initially for the Packers. David Bakhtiari is making way too much money to move from LT, and Bryan Bulaga is still a top 20 paid tackle. Jason Spriggs was selected in the 2nd round a year ago, but if the Packers don’t plan on keeping Lane Taylor after next year or T.J. Lang/JC Tretter this offseason, they could feature an offensive line consisting of somthing like the following: Bakhtiari, Ramczyk, Linsley, Spriggs, Bulaga.