Spagnola: Cowboys Thoroughly Eying This Catalytic Possibility At No. 4

IRVING, Texas – Brother, we've been talkin' the 2016 NFL Draft since, what, at the latest Dec. 19, 2015, when the Cowboys finally, almost mercifully, were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.

Shoot, a lot of that talk began as early as Thanksgiving when Tony Romo's collarbone went kaput for the second and final time during that 2015 season, officially the third worst 16-game season record in club history.

And finally, after all this time, after all this talk, the draft his nigh upon us. Instead of four months away, now it's just four weeks away, and the proverbial question hasn't changed one bit:

Who do you think the Cowboys will take with the fourth pick in the draft?

All this time, all these projections, all these opinions, all these mocks changing faster than the worth of the U.S. dollar in Canada, and really, we still don't know. Not sure they even know since the big board has yet to be compiled, and certainly Tennessee, Cleveland and San Diego have yet to tip their hands, a huge factor at No. 4.

A quarterback? A defensive end? A cornerback? A running back? A defensive tackle? A linebacker? A wide receiver?

Any and all are in play. My guess is about the only position we can rule out with some certainty is tight end and probably offensive line since that would really be overkill if you were to use your first-round pick on an offensive lineman for the fourth time in six years, considering how fortuitously they added first-round talent La'el Collins in rookie free agency last year.

But the more I read, the more I listen, the more I dig, the more I can't get this kind of guy out of my mind, the lone caveat being, if he's there:

"He combines size and physicality with tremendous skill and speed. And he has a relentless competitive nature about himself. It's like a linebacker's mentality, but he can do it with a skilled body – it's very unique."

Or there has been this:

"Not only are you going to get a great player on the field and a great competitor, you're going to have a guy who is going to influence the other guys on the team by the way he competes and goes about his business."

Or this:

"He's got great length, he's got world class speed. Even when he gets beat off the line of scrimmage in press coverage, it's amazing to see his catch-up speed. It's like beep, beep, and he's there."

And love hearing him say this about himself after this week's Pro Day workout:

"Today I took it as another opportunity to show I'm the best defensive back and player in this year's draft."

By now, as if we were playing What's My Line?, you would have beeped in with:

Jalen Ramsey, defensive back, Florida State.

Probably don't need to remind Cowboys owner Jerry Jones of this term he liked to use several drafts ago, maybe 'bout the time the Cowboys used a first round pick on Dez Bryant in 2010 or possibly back in 2005 when the first of two first-round picks was used on DeMarcus Ware:

Catalytic player.


Technically the word means causing, involving or relating to catalysis. To me, it means someone with immense enough talent to change the outcome of games; someone who is a catalyst to winning; someone with the solo knack to make that play the Cowboys invariably couldn't this past season to save their lives.

Think about that: Who on this team besides Tony Romo, Dez Bryant or possibly Sean Lean and Dan Bailey consistently has demonstrated such solo characteristics? Come on now … yeah, that's what I thought.

Well to me, with the fourth pick in this draft, the highest position the Cowboys have unceremoniously earned since selecting Troy Aikman with the first pick in the 1989 draft (or using what would have been the first pick in the 1990 draft on Steve Walsh in the '89 supplemental draft), I want a dynamic player, a guy with unique talents, someone who creates lightning on the field such as some of these previous fourth picks over the past several decades:

Amari Cooper, A.J. Green, Philip Rivers, Justin Smith, Edgerrin James, Charles Woodson, Jonathan Ogden, Willie McGinest, Derrick Thomas, Chris Doleman, Reggie White, John Hannah, Joe Greene.

Get my drift.

Sort of what the aforementioned quotes suggest, the first two from his Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher at Pro Day this week, the third from draft guru Mike Mayock on the scene, and of course the final one what Ramsey said of himself after his workout, along with this one when asked what position does he think he's best suited for in the NFL, cornerback or safety, having played both for the 'Noles:

"Anywhere a team needs me, honestly. I play corner, I play safety, I play nickel. I'd love to play corner, but I'm versatile, so any team that wants to put me wherever can put me there immediately. I'm a ballhawk, you can't deny that."

Can't deny the kid lacks confidence, either, but that's what I want in my corner, a guy with a little vinegar in his veins. Now, he doesn't have to be as brash as Deion Sanders (what do they feed these guys in Tallahassee?), reaching over the line of scrimmage to slap the receiver's hands before the first play of the game to remind him this is going to be an all-day sucker.

Yeah, I want him to say he's the best player in the draft, though for my selfish reasons, hope those Tennessee folks are rolling their eyes.

The Cowboys, they aren't rolling their eyes. They are raising their eyebrows. They, too, understand what I'm talking about and, as this was being written on Friday, the Cowboys, including head coach Jason Garrett, were in Tallahassee for a one-on-one meeting with one Jalen Ramsey.

"Impressive" was the word Garrett used a time or three when we bumped into each other late Friday afternoon at The Ranch.

I knew Ramsey was 6-1, 209, and has run the 40-yard dash between 4.27 seconds and 4.47, factoring to his 4.41 combine time. I see where he has a 41½" vertical and an 11'3" standing long jump, and had heard he's the first true Florida State freshman to start at corner since Sanders (1985).

Now here's what really intrigues me:

This kid won the Tennessee state high school decathlon title. He set the state record in the long jump at 23'3¼". He ran a 10.5-second time in the 100-yard dash, 21.44 in the 200 and 48.02 in the 400, that last one right there saying something about his competitive nature. Sprinters and jumpers hate the 400. No one volunteers to run the 400, maybe the toughest event in track and field. And if you don't think so, try running all out once around. Call me if you don't fall out first.

Oh, that's not all. He had a 6'8" high jump, a 47'7" triple jump and a – now get this –49'11" shot put.

And even at Florida State, too. Why, he participated in track more as a hobby, something to keep him in shape for football. Ramsey in 2015 won the ACC Indoor and Outdoor long jump titles and ran a 39.28 first leg on FSU's championship 4x100 relay team. At the NCAA Indoors, his 26'1¾" got him fourth in the nation and was just inches short of qualifying to compete in the 2016 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials this summer.

Some kind of athlete, though he ain't going to Rio.

So yeah, don't roll your eyes over Jimbo's observations of Ramsey during various interviews on Pro Day, thinking he's just biased, tooting his own kid's horn. This kid is a head-turner.

"I think the uniqueness of the game today, which is such a spread game, he can play corner, he can play safety, he can play nickel – he can cover all the different people in the secondary, whether it's a tight end, a little receiver or a big receiver, and he brings a uniqueness to the game," Fisher has been quoted as saying.

Gosh, and he's only 21.

So on this April Fools' Day, who knows if I'm being foolish? Who knows if Ramsey will even be available at No. 4? And if he is, would the Cowboys even take him, depending on who else is left? They should get there within the next two to three weeks, I'd imagine. Can't leave those decisions to 10 minutes on the clock.

But wherever they go, you should want a potentially great player, the caliber of Aikman or Irvin or Emmitt or Ware. Not merely a nice player. Not just a guy who'll be a good player for several years. Think eventual Hall of Famer.

Think catalytic, no matter what position he plays.

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