Ravens Rookie Preview
September 10, 2013
Entering the 2013 NFL Draft, the Baltimore Ravens had lost many key players from their Super Bowl XLVII championship team. The Ravens needed to use their twelve draft picks to fill in the holes, and they did just that. They started with twelve picks and executed one trade so they ended up with ten draft picks.
S Matt Elam
The first of which, is safety Matt Elam out of the University of Florida, who was picked with the Ravens’ first round draft pick, 32nd overall. At 5’10”, Elam is a little short for the safety position but his physical, aggressive style of play more than makes up for his lack of height. Due to this style of play, Elam will play strong safety for the Ravens. He is locked in a battle with veteran James Ihedigbo for the starting job and it has been a close competition so it is tough to say who will start.
Last year’s strong safety Bernard Pollard was released in the offseason and Elam’s skill set is superior to that of Pollard’s. Pollard is a hard-hitting safety who excels in run defense but, is a major liability in the passing game. Elam will bring the same hard-hitting ability as Pollard but, Elam is already a better pass defender than Pollard.
As said earlier, Elam is in a competition for a starting job. If he gets it to start the season, he should be in line for about 75 tackles, 2 INTs, and 1 forced fumble. If he doesn’t start the season as the starting strong safety, he should become a starter by the end of the season.
ILB Arthur Brown
Considered first round pick by many people, including me, Brown fell to the bottom of the second where the Ravens traded up to pick 56 from pick 62 using a 5th round pick (165) and a 6th round pick (199). Brown probably fell due to having shoulder surgery before the draft and because he lacked “ideal” height for an inside linebacker (remind you of another linebacker the Ravens drafted?).
Every year, the Ravens designate a prospect as their “Red Star” player of the draft. Brown was the Ravens “Red Star” player in this year’s draft for the Ravens. For the Ravens, the “Red Star” player must show many special qualities like character and leadership. Previous “Red Star” players that earned this distinction are Ray Rice, Marshal Yanda, and Ben Grubbs. That is some good company to be in.
Like Elam, Brown is battling for a starting position and like Elam, he should win the starting job. Brown is battling for the Ravens WILL inside linebacker spot with Josh Bynes. The MIKE inside linebacker spot already belongs to veteran Daryl Smith. It is already known that when the defense is in the nickel sub-package, Brown will be one of the two linebackers due to his speed and pass coverage ability. Assuming that Brown wins the starting job, expect him to record about 80 tackles.
DT Brandon Williams
At 325 pounds, Brandon Williams possesses ideal size for a nose tackle. His 325 pounds isn’t fat though, as he looks to have a lot of muscle. This is backed up by the fact he bench pressed 225 pounds 38 times. Despite his size he is quite nimble as shown by his ability to walk on his hands.
When the Ravens first drafted Williams, a nose tackle out of Missouri Southern State, it looked like he would compete with Terrence Cody for the starting nose tackle spot. However, as time has passes it looks like Williams will be a rotational defensive lineman for the Ravens this year.
With the signings of defensive ends Chris Canty and Marcus Spears, Haloti Ngata has moved from defensive end to nose tackle in the Ravens 3-4 defense. This moves Williams from the probable starter at nose tackle to a backup who will see time in short yardage situations and will be used as part of the Ravens many substitutions on the defensive line in order to keep the players fresh. With that being said, expect Williams to get double digit tackles but not much more than that, fifteen would be a good projection. Also, don’t expect Williams to have as many sacks as he did in college, where he put up 27 in his four seasons there.
OLB John Simon
The Ravens clearly made improving their defense a priority this offseason as their first four draft picks were defensive players with the last of these four being John Simon. On the surface, this pick seemed surprising as the Ravens already had Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, and Courtney Upshaw at outside linebacker. However, behind them, there wasn’t really any depth so it made sense that the Ravens wanted to add one more outside linebacker.
A player to compare Simon to is former Ravens outside linebacker Jarret Johnson. This is because they are both hard working, high-motor players. With the Ravens, Johnson was the perfect compliment to a pass rusher like Suggs because he was such a good run defender. The Ravens will be hoping that Simon can join Upshaw in providing this type of edge-setting run defense from the outside linebacker position.
Don’t expect Simon to have a big impact on the Ravens this season because of Suggs, Dumervil, and Upshaw. He will see some limited time on defense to give a breather to one of these guys but it won’t be for long. However, Simon should contribute on special teams this year, like Upshaw did last year. Upshaw made some key special teams plays last season and since he will be playing more on defense this year, he probably won’t play special teams. Simon should be able to record around ten tackles between spot defense work and special teams.
FB Kyle Juszczyk
The Ravens first offensive pick of their draft was a bit of a surprise, for more than one reason. First off, fullbacks usually don’t get drafted until the sixth or seventh rounds, in fact, lots don’t even get drafted. What made this pick even more surprising is that the Ravens had All-Pro FB Vonta Leach on the roster then.
However, Juszczyk is more than just a fullback as he has the ability to play tight end and slot receiver, which is why he went in the fourth round. At Harvard, Juszczyk had 52 catches for 706 yards and 8 TDs last year. At first, this is how it looked like Juszczyk would be used as the Ravens still had Leach. Then, the Ravens cut Leach after he refused to take a pay cut, so it looked like Juszczyk would play as a traditional fullback. Naturally, Leach was re-signed so we are back at square one for how Juszczyk will be used.
Due to Leach being back with the Ravens, Juszczyk will see little if no time as a lead blocker. However, due to Dennis Pitta‘s injury and the lack of quality receiving targets for the Ravens, Juszczyk will see time as a tight end. He could also be used as a pass-catcher out of the backfield as well. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Juszczyk catch around fifteen passes this year for the Ravens and next year, he could take over as the Ravens fullback as Leach will be a free agent.
OT Ricky Wagner
Heading into the draft, offensive tackle was perceived to be one of the Ravens’ biggest needs as Michael Oher is best suited as a right tackle and Bryant McKinnie was still a free agent (he was re-signed soon after the draft) and he will be 34 this season. However, the Ravens waited until the fifth round to address the tackle position with Ricky Wagner out of Wisconsin.
At Wisconsin, Wagner played left tackle but many draft people believed that Wagner would be best suited on the right side in the NFL. Despite this, the Ravens are using Wagner as their backup left tackle and he has looked good in preseason. While it is only preseason, this is a good sign as next year, Wagner could compete for the starting left tackle position depending on how Bryant McKinnie plays this season.
For this season, Wagner isn’t likely to see the field. He may be listed as the backup left tackle on the depth chart but, if anything happened to McKinnie, Oher would probably slide over to left tackle and Jah Reid would come in at right tackle. Therefore, Wagner will make the team but will just be a depth player this season who will only play if the offensive line suffers multiple injuries.
DE Kapron Lewis-Moore
One of the Ravens two sixth round picks, Lewis-Moore enjoyed a successful year for Notre Dame before tearing his ACL in the National Championship Game against Alabama. He recorded 40 tackles and 6 sacks before this injury and was considered the leader of the Fighting Irish’s dominant defensive line.
This wasn’t his first knee injury though, as he tore his MCL in his junior year. The fact that now has suffered two serious knee injuries gives reason for concern for his pro football future. He has already been placed on the Non-Football Injury List to start the season. His injury counts as non-football as it didn’t occur while playing in the NFL. Odds are, Lewis-Moore won’t play this season in order to let his torn ACL heal. Then, he should be fully recovered for next season where he can compete for playing time on the defensive line.
C Ryan Jensen
The Ravens’ other sixth round pick from April, Jensen played his college ball at tiny Colorado State-Pueblo, not exactly a football factory. For the ThunderWolves, Jensen played all over the line which is why I called him the poor man’s Barrett Jones when the Ravens drafted him. The Ravens plan on using Jensen as a center, though his versatility certainly isn’t a disadvantage.
Unfortunately, Jensen broke his foot in late July and his recovery is expected to take ten weeks, which would be around week five. Since the Ravens already have Gino Gradkowski and A.Q. Shipley battling it out at center, Jensen probably won’t be needed on the roster. This means that Jensen will probably join Lewis-Moore on injured reserve meaning both the Ravens sixth round picks will end up on injured reserve. When you consider that Tommy Streeter was placed on injured reserve with a sprained foot last season, it is safe to say Jensen will go on injured reserve with a broken one.
WR Aaron Mellette
A 7th round pick, Mellette is another small school prospect as he played his college ball at Elon. While there, he was very productive, scoring 18 touchdowns in his senior season alone. Going into the draft, he was considered a mid-round prospect, so the Ravens got good value with this pick. They quite a bit showed interest in Mellette, like Jensen in fact, throughout the draft process.
Mellette should make the final roster as he has shown some flashes in training camp and in preseason. In fact, he scored a touchdown in his first two preseason games. With the way the Ravens’ receiving corps is, Mellette could receive a lot of playing time or very little this season. He will probably be the 5th or 6th receiver on the depth chart. Torrey Smith is the clear number one receiver while Jacoby Jones and Brandon Stokley will hold down the number two and three spots. After that, it gets iffy. Tandon Doss was expected to step up but he has looked unimpressive and Deonte Thompson has missed important time with a foot injury. Undrafted free agent Marlon Brown has stepped up and been very impressive. All of this leaves the competition wide open, and a player like Mellette could come in and steal a job.
CB Marc Anthony
Last, we have the 7th round cornerback out of California. Nicknamed J-Lo by teammates because singer Marc Anthony was married to Jennifer Lopez, Anthony was also considered to be a mid-round prospect heading into the draft. Standing 5’11”, Anthony has the height to be a good corner in the NFL but he has to work on his technique and tackling if he wants to stick around in the league.
Like most 7th round picks, Anthony was in a battle for his roster spot. The first four cornerback spots were locked down by Lardarius Webb, Corey Graham, Jimmy Smith, and Chykie Brown. Anthony had to go up against undrafted free agent Moe Lee for the 5th cornerback spot. Lee was cut, so it seemed that Anthony won the job but, Anthony was recently cut as well which means that Ravens will probably have five safeties and only four cornerbacks on the roster. However, Asa Jackson is suspended for the first eight games of the season and when he comes back, he should be the the 5th corner. Expect the Ravens to try and get Anthony on the practice squad for this season as they did invest a draft pick in him.