1) Courtney Upshaw –Linebacker
Upshaw was the Ravens 2nd round pick (35th overall) in the 2012 NFL draft. He was an absolute beast at getting to the Quarterback for Alabama and I, along with many others, was shocked when he wasn’t drafted in the 1st round. He should really benefit learning from other great linebackers like Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis and expect him to get a lot of playing time in the preseason and rotating in a lot during the season. Upshaw was one of my favorite players in the draft this past year and am very excited to see how he does because I think he will end up being a huge player for this franchise.
2) Terrence Cody- Nose Tackle
Cody is another guy from Alabama. He has been battling weight issues at times since being drafted in the 2nd round (57th overall) in the 2010 draft. He has shown improvements over the past 2 seasons and I look for him to have a big season this year. Outside of tackles, he won’t bring much flash to the stat sheet but he is a huge body this year that will draw multiple blockers to make everyone around him better. He played all 16 games this past year and 13 the year before so despite weight troubles, he has managed to stay healthy.
3) Sergio Kindle- Linebacker
Sergio Kingle has had plenty of injury problems since being drafted in the 2nd round (pick 43) of the 2010 NFL draft. I remember in 2010, I loved the Ravens taking Kindle and Cody in the second round back to back and I hope this year they get to see them both be very successful. When healthy, Kindle has proven to be great at getting to the quarterback or stopping the running back in the back field at Texas. Since being in Baltimore, although only playing in 2 games, he has had a couple years to learn from the proven veteran stars on this team and he has a great chance to show what he’s got this preseason and season. Kindle has a lot to prove this year and if he just continues to get hurt or fails to impress, expect the Ravens to cut ties and let him get a chance somewhere else.
4) Asa Jackson- Corner Back
This past season, I covered some FCS football for this company I interned for (Beyond Sports Network). Each week we would look in the box scores for FCS, D2, D3, and NAIA and have athletes of the weeks for each position on both sides of the ball. I was very familiar with Asa Jackson and was ecstatic when a team took a chance on him in the 5th round. These FCS guys can play. On defense, he played in 10 games, had 31 solo tackles, 23 assisted, .5 tackles for a loss, 7 break ups, 9 pass deflections, and 2 interceptions both returned for touch downs (100 and 52 yards). I think he will make an impact on this team in the return game, especially in the preseason. On kick returns he had 14 returns, for 361 yards (25.8 average, 49 long). On punt returns he had 8 returns for 144 yards (18 average, 41 long). I don’t care what your level of competition is, all these stats our impressive. When he has the ball in his hands he is dangerous. I really hope this guy turns out to be a real steal.