The New Orleans Saints select Offensive Tackle Ryan Ramczyk with the 32nd pick of the first round of the 2017 NFL draft. What at first was, to me, a ho hum, ever-so-safe pick became more exciting as the night wore on. Coach Sean Payton divulged the grade placed on Ramczyk by the Saints organization. The Saints had Ramczyk slotted in the top tier of the first round at a position they wished to fill. The gap between the Ramczyk grade and other, defensive player grades was sufficient enough to warrant the pick in the first round. “Our grade on Ryan was at the top half of round one, inside of a grade of 15,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “He was a player graded in the first round by every one of our scouts.” If the Saints had waited until a later round, the draft would not have yielded many promising picks at offensive tackle. The Saints made it clear they expected to draft an offensive tackle but most analysts (including me) thought they would draft one later given Drew Brees’ ability to make life relatively easy for an offensive tackle. (Perhaps, the Saints are moving back toward dominant offensive line play reminiscent of the days when they regularly garnered the Madden award for Most Valuable Protectors in 2009 and 2011).
Our Lads, Pro Football Focus and Mike Manock rated Ramczyk as their second highest ranked tackle. He was rated number one by Mike Detillier, Bucky Brooks, CBS and NFL. Ramczyk has been compared to Joe Staley and Nate Solder. Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated had a well written scouting report on him. “There is a certain tranquility to watching Ramczyk work. He never panics, even when a defender manages to gain a step on him; he never lets the play speed up his own process. Everything Ramczyk does on a block happens in orderly fashion.”
Draft profile from NFL.com “He’s really athletic and he’s really smart. There are a lot of Wisconsin linemen who start in the league because they learn an NFL system and they are taught the right way. He played against Arden Key, Sam Hubbard and Taco Charlton. This guy is battle tested against three future first rounders.” – NFC midwest scout (It is noted analysts thought he struggled a bit against Charlton).
Ramczyk joins a seasoned offensive line (and I am all about the line from which all good play ensues) for the Saints. It is expected he will play behind veteran right tackle Zach Strief. Strief will be 34 in September but is still playing at a high level. The Ramczyk pick was made with an eye to a future tackle position with Andrus Peat entrenched at guard. “It is hard to find tackles,” Payton said. “When you can get young ones. … I think there is value in that player and again we like that he is prototype size, we love the makeup and there were a lot of things that we felt real good about.” Ramczyk is 6 foot, 6 inches, weighing in at 314.
An article written by Chris Kwiecinski of the Land of 10 provides some insights into Ramczyk, who along with fellow Badger T J Watt, were drafted in the first round. This has not happened for the Badgers since 2011.
According to a story written by ESPN’s Jesse Temple in November, Ramczyk was seriously debating if he should give up football for a welder’s life. After signing to play with Division II Winona State to play football, Ramczyk quit the sport and never played a down in Winona, Minn.
Ramczyk’s father, Randy, suggested to his son that he should pick up welding as a career, as welders are in high demand. Thankfully for Wisconsin, Ramczyk missed football so much that he caught on with Division III Wisconsin-Stevens Point. He was named a Division III All-American.
Coming out of high school in 2011, there was one coach who was smitten with Ramczyk as a lineman. That coach was current Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst, who was the Badgers’ offensive coordinator six years ago. As recounted in this uwbadgers.com article, when Chryst became head coach at the University of Pittsburgh, he tried to convince Ramczyk to join the Panthers and offered the Stevens Point Area Senior High School standout a scholarship.
Ramczyk deemed Pitt too far away from home and declined. After dominating the Division III scene, Ramczyk was debating a move up to the Division I level in 2015. Chryst had just become Wisconsin’s head coach and was able to land Ramczyk the second time around.
If you wish to see a bit of Ramczyk’s play, check out the videos provided by Field Gulls. “He routinely won his match-ups throughout the game using excellent hand fighting techniques. Lining up at left tackle, he typically faced Charlton, a likely first round pick … but he (Ramczyk) was downright dominant for the vast majority of the game. He did a great job setting the edge patiently mirroring Charlton in space and did a great job of resetting his hands to get ready for the second punch. As a whole, Charlton only beat Ramczyk twice this game and both actually happened in the first quarter.” Field Gulls sees Ramczyk as a better pass protector than run blocker in games against Taco Charlton and Chris Wormley.