Eagles likely have big plans for Georgia’s Kelee Ringo

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CHICAGO, IL – AUGUST 21: Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai looks on during a preseason game between the Chicago Bears and the Buffalo Bills on August 21, 2021 at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire)

The Philadelphia Eagles seem to have quite an affinity for the Georgia Bulldogs. Five former Bulldogs have been drafted by Howie Roseman in the last two years, but one is being overlooked – Kelee Ringo.

Kelee Ringo – The forgotten Bulldog

It’s easy to look at Nolan Smith and Jalen Carter and get excited, especially knowing that Jordan Davis, another first-round talent, is already anchoring the defensive line. Nakobe Dean appears to have a starting role locked in for 2023, and while the four Georgia products will have key roles to play after the first regular season snap, Ringo will be watching from the sideline…and that’s not a bad thing.

Kelee Ringo is only 20 years old. You wouldn’t know it watching his tape. As a true freshman, he came down with the game-sealing pick six in the 2021 National Championship. He missed the year beforehand due to surgery but bounced back in a big way, recoding 2 picks, 8 pass breakups and 34 tackles.

At 6’2, 207 lbs, Ringo has what a lot of corners lack – a scary combination of size and speed. He’s built like a safety but clocked a 4.36 40-yard dash. It’s rare for a corner to have the long speed of a deep-threat and the size and physicality to handle everything thrown his way. It’s exactly what made the Eagles fall in love.

We felt like this was a 20-year old kid who was a good kid, tremendous physical tools, and we really had an opportunity to develop him. He doesn’t have to come in here and be a superhero. He can learn. 

We think we have tremendous veterans at that position who can show the way, and he can come in in a role where he’s learning, and there’s not a lot of pressure on him, and he can develop. 

We believe in the player and in the person. 

I know there were reports. We watched the draft there in our draft room. We don’t have a question about his work ethic. We don’t have a question about his medical. 

For us, it just made some sense. We wanted to get him in the building. We thought getting him in the building and being around [CB Darius] Slay and J.B. [CB James Bradberry] and [CB] Avonte [Maddox], and obviously we have young guys at that position too that we like. We thought that would benefit us and him. We’re excited to add him.

Howie Roseman following the NFL Draft

The Eagles GM is right. With Darius Slay and James Bradberry under contract for at least another two years, the Birds have time to develop a future CB1 and Ringo has all the tools to become exactly that at the tender age of 20 years old.

PHILADELPHIA, PA – SEPTEMBER 19: Philadelphia Eagles Cornerback Darius Slay (2) reacts after making an interception in the fourth quarter during the game between the Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles on September 19, 2022 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

In 2022, Ringo made 42 tackles along with 2 picks and 7 pass breakups. He was regarded as one of the SEC’s most exciting corners going into that season, but didn’t take the huge jump that was perhaps implied after that incredible pick-six. Even so, Ringo displayed enough to warrant being selected on day 2 of the NFL Draft.

Just like his last memory of the 2021 season being a pick-six, his collegiate swan song was holding TCU’s Quintin Johnston to just five yards in the National Championship. Johnston was then selected with the 21st overall pick by the Los Angeles Chargers. If there was ever a performance to inspire confidence, that was it.

What can we expect from Kelee Ringo on the Eagles?

As far as what Ringo brings to the table, he’s a dinner cornerback (thrives at the top of the route) with stunning speed at his disposal. The worry is that because he’s a read-and-react corner, he can often give up a window of separation at the line due to flipping his hips too early or biting on a double move. While he does have the speed to recover, sometimes it’s too little, too late, with receivers able to leverage that separation into an easy reception.

According to PFF, he gave up 13 catches of 15+ yards in 2022. The good news is that Desai’s defense features zone coverage more often than not, with corners shading routes inside and playing a mix of quarters coverages that feature a cover-2 shell. Ringo will have support around him and his mistakes will likely be less noticeable as he’ll have more room to recover.

The Eagles’ scheme will also lend itself very kindly to his speed and versatility. Take the below play, for example.

A special role on the Eagles defense in 2023?

Ringo initially comes down to the line of scrimmage and somehow ends up being the DB making the tackle 15 yards down the field. That kind of speed is terrifying, especially if the Eagles do decide to deploy a ‘STAR’.

A STAR is a hybrid defender, usually a safety, that plays inside the box but can line up on tight ends, on the outside, and play over the top. Sydney Brown is the logical fit here, but it’s also worth noting that the Eagles haven’t really invested super heavy in the Safety position, and the idea of Brown, Blankenship and Ringo splitting duties in the immediate future isn’t that farfetched given how each has a different skillset to bring to the table.

The bigger picture

In the longer-term, Ringo will likely be groomed for an eventual CB1/2 spot. In an ideal world, James Bradberry will get a bump up to CB2 in 2025 and a contract extension and Darius Slay will either drop to a rotational role or look for one last big payday. Ringo can then step up into the CB2 role as a 22-year-old corner with 2 years of developmental experience behind him. That in itself is a truly exciting prospect. Entering his third year, he’s only going to be 22 years of age.

The Eagles have a corner with all the physical traits they could ever need to fit Desai’s zone-heavy system that thrives on misdirection and disguised coverages. He’s a versatile corner who can pass-off deep routes, drop back into deep coverage with ease, and cover large chunks of space due to his range and quickness.

Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, center, reacts with linebacker Haason Reddick (7) and defensive end Josh Sweat (94) following an NFL divisional round playoff football game against the New York Giants, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, in Philadelphia. The Eagles won 38-7. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

It may take some time to iron out his destructive tendencies near the line of scrimmage, but time is something this team now has an abundance of. Ringo has arguably the highest athletic upside of any player in this draft class, and is also one of the youngest players to declare. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Kelee Ringo could be a crucial piece in Sean Desai’s Empire.

Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire