The Ravens Draft: Ray Ray Armstrong
The circumstances surrounding his dismissal from Miami are disappointing because he may have very well been in contentions for a 2nd or 3rd round pick as a strong safety. However, after transferring to Faulkner and then being declared ineligible under NAIA guidlines* he was forced to sit out last year and he basically hasn't played since the 2011 season.
*NAIA guidelines stipulate that being permanently banned in any sport from any 4-year institution renders a player ineligible for NAIA teams.
I've never been really big on tall safeties. I think they're way too stiff in coverage and it is really easy for bigger safeties to look like all-pro's in college because most college QB's don't have the arm to really beat secondaries over the top. Taylor Mays looked like the second coming of Sean Taylor when Mays was at USC, but in the NFL he is a ST'er at best. In fact, a lot of these bigger safeties are dropping down to linebacker while in college because the NFL is moving towards more linebackers who can cover rather than be pure run stoppers. Kenny Tate at Maryland did this as did Alec Ogletree from Georgia, Khaseem Greene from Rutgers, and Zaviar Gooden from Missouri.
However, Ray Ray Armstrong is someone that I think I could really get behind if the Ravens were to take a flier on him in the later rounds. He has talent and he has a lot of upside. He just hasn't played in a year. I also don't hold the booster/issues from Miami against him. 9 out of 10 kids would have lied or misled the school authorities in a situation like that. He was probably scared and his natural instinct was to lie/deflect. It cost him. Hopefully he learned from it.
I think being able to roam the deep parts of the field are really what separates a good safety from a great safety. Great safeties don't bite on double moves and play action. Great safeties also can play the ball in the air really well. Armstrong is far from a great safety. When I watch him in coverage I think he does some nice things like jamming TE's and WR's at the line of scrimmage and he closes on receivers quickly. He also has nice hands, but he seems to get caught looking into the backfield quite a bit and because of this QB's (who are smart) will play off of that. He also bites on play action and double moves. You can see this in the tape below against UVA and Clemson where he is convinced that it is a run and he sprints up to the line of scrimmage only to have the QB target a player down the seam, which would have been his responsibility. The nice things about these weaknesses is they are more or less bad habits, which can be coached. For a 220-225lb safety, he runs really well and he isn't as stiff as a lot of other bigger safeties have a tendency to be.
This is his best attribute IMO. I love the way he explodes at the ball carrier and he is like a rocket when he targets the ball carrier and is moving in for the tackle. His speed and size make him a threat to dislodge the ball when he tackles guys too and he can pack a punch when he needs to. I think he does a nice job tracking the ball carrier and he takes nice angles. My biggest gripe with him when defending the run is sometimes he likes to dive at a player's feet rather than wrapping them up. Sometimes he almost looks like he is falling down and hoping to trip them up with his arm. More often than not, that happens when a player takes a bad angle or commits and then gets juked, which against Andre Ellington and Clemson you can see that happened a few times. However, overall I think Armstrong brings a lot to the table as a run defender. Again, these weaknesses are coach-able.
This is another area where I think Ray Ray does a nice job when given the opportunity. He has nice leaping ability so blitzing off the side and then jumping to bat passes out of the air are not out of the realm of possibilities for the guy. Additionally, he is very explosive and has what I would consider borderline elite closing speed for a guy his size.
Overall, I think Armstrong is a nice prospect who hasn't come close to realizing his potential. I'm not sure what the Ravens plan on doing with SS, but I think any competition for Ihedigbo and Christian Thompson is a good thing. At worst, Armstrong would be outstanding depth for a few years and maybe when Huff is out of the equation, Thompson and Armstrong would be the safeties. Who knows? I think the 6th round would be a good value spot for him.
NFL player he reminds me of: I think he has some Adrian Wilson in there when you compare his size and skill set. However, when he bites on those double moves all I could think about was Dashon Goldson against the Falcons in the playoffs.
Disclaimer: The content posted is of my own opinion.