INDIANAPOLIS — It isn’t just fans but coaches, scouts, and GM’s have their favorites in the NFL Draft, too, and new Denver Broncos head coach Vance Joseph may have his.
“He plays like an NFL guy,” said the Broncos new head man. “He’s got long arms, he’s got great feet, he’s tough, he’s smart. He’s definitely a guy that most teams are looking at. We’re picking at 20, so it’s gonna be tough to acquire a guy like that at 20.”
Joseph was talking about former Wisconsin left tackle Ryan Ramczyk, considered by many to be the top tackle prospect in the 2017 class and one of the few suited to play on the all-important left side. That'd be reason enough to understand why Ramczyk, who interviewed with the team already, is such a favorite of VJ’s who added that he’s “a serious, serious prospect” as a blind side protector. High praise.
While Joseph couldn't help but gush about one of the few bright spots in a notoriously weak tackle group to his former head coach at Colorado Rick Neuheisel on SiriusXM Radio, Ramczyk was far from boisterous. When a journalist asked if he thought he was the best tackle in the draft hoping for a big headline, Ramczyk’s response was miles different from Joseph's.
“I’m not sure, I haven’t looked at any of that,” he said.
Sorry, but the young man who’s journey took him from Division III University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point to an All-American in his first year starting for the Badgers isn’t interested in delivering big proclamations. Instead, Ramczyk would like to leave a different impression at the Combine this week.
“I’d like to just show them my work ethic, and I think they can see that in my film,” said Ramczyk with more excitement. “Just to be able to get out on the field when someone selects me to just show the player that I am and the work ethic that I have.”
Ramczyk’s always had the talent to play in big-time college football, but his path was different as he took a year off and then decided to rededicate himself to the game.
“I thought at the time I might want to do something else… It’s been a big question now in interviews. Like I said I took that year off, then I realized what I had going on and ever since then I’ve been working just to play football again.”
Now Ramczyk—who checked in at 6-foot-6, 310-pounds with 33-and-3/4 inch arms—simply wants to continue the tradition of Wisconsin linemen. A school that groomed him for a year while he sat out due to NCAA transfer rules before his breakout season starting in 2016.
“At Wisconsin—you know, obviously run heavy—we had some play-actions, some five-man protections, and we were coached really well,” explained the first round hopeful. “There’s a great coaching staff there. You know, just working on little fundamentals and constantly improving my game, I think will be able to translate to the NFL… They’ve produced some really big names and some really good offensive linemen. I’ve got some big shoes to fill, but I’m excited and looking forward to it.”
While he’s all business, run blocking and hard work, Ramczyk is enjoying his journey from DIII to the combine, calling it an “incredible experience.” That experience is also becoming busy as the former Badger has already met with many teams, including the Broncos.
“Yeah, I met with the Broncos, had a good meeting,” recounted the talented pass protector. “They asked a lot of questions, and it was another meeting. Hopefully, they like what I had to say and how I play as a player.”
It appears the team does like how he plays. Part of that isn’t just his meteoric rise, but also great athletic ability to stay balanced and mirror some of the NCAA’s best pass rushers, a skill he honed in his first season with the Badgers practice team in which he faced off against the team's talented pass rushers including T.J. Watt.
“First of all you gotta be a smart player and know the ins and outs of football,” explained Ramczyk in what makes for an NFL-ready tackle. “Just have the athletic ability to do what that team wants you to do, kind of a natural raw ability packed in with work ethic.”
The possible top offensive linemen taken in the Draft could very well be gone once the Broncos pick comes around in the first-round at 20. If he isn't, the surgery he underwent on his hip at the end of the season is certain to play a big part in his "fall."
“It’s been really good, it’s been all positive,” he explained about his rehab process that was estimated to take five months. “I’m on like eight weeks now of recovery and feeling really healthy. I’ll be back in California training and rehabbing that after this.”
He also added that, “I’ll absolutely be cleared for training camps and hopefully OTAs but I’m not positive yet.”
Because of the injury, Ramczyk won’t be a participant in athletic workouts in Indianapolis, and he already performed his only test, the bench press, putting up a respectable 25 reps.
A lot can happen between now and the end of April—when the draft actually begins—but given the Broncos need on the offensive line, Ramczyk’s talent is very intriguing. Just don’t expect him to be impressed, he just wants to go to work.