Name: Ryan Ramczyk
Class: Redshirt Junior
Weight: 314 lbs (22st 6lb)
Games Watched: 2016 – vs Minnesota, vs Western Michigan, vs Ohio State
Ramczyk ended up at Wisconsin by a bizarre route. Lightly recruited out of high school, his ‘top’ offer was from Pitt, which he turned down to sign for D-II Winona State. How’d he do there? Er, before even playing a snap he transferred to Madison Area Technical College, then Mid-State Technical College. How’d he do there? Er, neither team even have an athletics programme, let alone a football team. This was 2012. So, in 2013, he moved to play for the UW-Stevens Point Panthers, a D-III team. This is all during his first year at college, too. I’ll level with you, of those colleges mentioned in this paragraph? Yeah, I’ve only ever heard of Wisconsin and Pitt. So have you.
After two years with the Panthers, Ramczyk signed for Wisconsin, redshirted 2015 to get adjusted, and broke out in the first weekend of conference action as the Badgers pulverised Michigan State, 30-6. And it’s been a pretty good season for him! Ramczyk was named First Team All-Big Ten, First Team All-American. Not a bad record for one year in D-I. The only downside to his rapid rise? He’s picked up a bit of hip trouble, towards the end of the season, which isn’t something you want to see in a 22/23 year-old. Whoever drafts him will need confidence that this isn’t something that’ll impact him long-term.
Ramczyk is a ferocious run-blocker, regularly getting the first step in and dominating the opposing end at the line of scrimmage. He has lower-body power to drive players back, sustains blocks effectively by both grounding his feet and keeping his opponent off balance. Time after time Corey Clement made gains on the ground between Ramczyk and the guard. Ramczyk was doing this against quality teams too – he drove Clement (a late-round pick at best) to big games against Ohio State and Penn State.
Ramczyk has his strengths in pass blocking too. As you might expect given the previous paragraph, he’s not going to be beaten by many bull-rushers. Ramczyk has strength and determination, and was regularly able to hold of charging ends, despite occasionally raw technique. That determination, in fact, is key. Ramczyk is full of vim, and didn’t seem to be freelancing or playing at half-speed on any given play. Given his background and rapid rise, you could guess that he’s just delighted to be making it this far, and determined to make the most of it.
As you’d expect for someone with just one year of D-I experience, Ramczyk would need development in some areas of pass blocking. I’m particularly worried about how he can handle speed rushers – his footwork will need work, but he doesn’t look like the most agile or athletic of tackles. That’s fine in theory; he can work around that and get wily enough to be able to force rushers past the quarterback. He did that sometimes, but he won’t be able to do that against top pass rushers yet. So, he’s going to need some polish there. I think he’s a touch better against finesse blocks, as he’s an attentive, determined player in pass blocking, though the more unusual rushers (say, a Connor Barwin type), could enjoy a disproportionate amount of success against him.
I think he doesn’t quite have field awareness yet – he was fairly good run-blocking at the second level, but it seemed like on every other screen pass he either ended up lost and adrift, or flat on his arse. That’ll come with experience and training, you’d expect. Ramczyk did get better through the year, and started to pick up blocks on the outside, but you’re probably going to use him blocking at the line more than in the second level for a while.
It is such a cliché to talk about white guys having “grit” and such. But that’s at the core of how Ramczyk’s got this far. He’s strong and tough, with power in his arms and lower body, hence why he’s such a good run blocker on the line, and why he’s a sod to bull-rush through. What he needs is coaching on footwork, help to be able to divert speedier players, and more field awareness. I don’t think he’s ever going to be an elite left tackle – he just doesn’t have the athletic potential. But he could be a near-elite run-blocking right tackle, and I can see a team putting him in over there in his first season and being pleasantly surprised.
In terms of comparisons, Doug Free is the one that I see cited repeatedly, but I’m reminded more of Taylor Decker. I think Decker was better than expected at left tackle for Detroit, and I don’t think Ramczyk would have as strong a debut season. But I think a team with good offensive line coaching staff could get a heck of a long way with Ramczyk, especially if they’ve got a more running-based attack.
Grade: Mid-to-late Round 1