OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens continued a trend of drafting Alabama players in recent years with the selection of inside linebacker C.J. Mosley as the 17th overall pick of the 2014 draft Thursday night.
Despite rumors of possibly trading back and obvious needs at free safety and right tackle, general manager Ozzie Newsome tabbed Mosley as the first inside linebacker the Ravens have taken in the first round since future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis in 1996. The 2013 Butkus Award winner and Southeastern Conference Player of the Year is the second Alabama linebacker drafted by the Ravens in the last three years, joining outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw.
“It was a great vibe from the Alabama connection that I have [with] the Ravens,” Mosley said in a conference call. “Visiting there, talking to all the coaches, visiting staff, it was nothing but good vibes. I’m pretty sure that helped them make their choice a little bit easier. I’m just excited to get there now.”
Mosley led the Crimson Tide in tackles in each of the last two seasons and was praised by the Ravens’ brass Thursday night for his athleticism and leadership qualities as he served as a team captain. The biggest question mark about Mosley has been durability, but the Ravens felt comfortable that previous shoulder, hip, and elbow injuries were no longer issues with their medical staff.
In his final season with Alabama, Mosley collected 108 tackles — nine of them going for losses — as well as five pass breakups and a forced fumble.
“Very smart, relentless player, fast, always involved,” assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said. “He can play the run, can play the pass [and] should be a great special-teams guy for us if we need him to do that. [He’s] just a relentless, smart, tough football player.”
Newsome said the Ravens received some calls about moving back in the first round, but they didn’t receive any value significant enough to strongly consider trading their 17th pick. When asked how Alabama free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix stacked up against Mosley on the Ravens’ board when they were on the clock, Newsome described the linebacker as their “clear-cut” choice among all available players.
Many projected Mosley to be off the board before the Ravens would pick in the middle of the first round, but the Alabama linebacker was on their radar as they met during the pre-draft process. He figures to be a logical fit to play the weak-side inside linebacker position in defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ 3-4 base alignment.
“There’s no question in my mind that he’s going to be ready to play from Day 1,” Newsome said. “The day he gets here on Monday, he’ll be ready to go out there and start to prepare himself to get ready for our first game against Cincinnati.”
Mosley joins what appears to be a crowded group of inside linebackers after the Ravens re-signed veteran Daryl Smith earlier this offseason and drafted Arthur Brown in the second round of the 2013 draft. The Alabama linebacker’s talent is clear, but his selection isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for Brown, who was limited to duties in the nickel package and special teams in his rookie season.
The 6-foot-2, 234-pound Mosley told the Baltimore media in a conference call that he grew up idolizing Lewis and an opportunity to finally meet him was something he was able to cross off his bucket list. Of course, Mosley being drafted in the first round by Baltimore will draw inevitable comparisons to his boyhood idol.
“I’m not trying to go in there and be the next [No.] 52 or anything like that,” Mosley said. “I’m going in there to be C.J. Mosley and help the team win.”
The Ravens selected Mosley a spot after coveted offensive tackle Zack Martin was selected by the Dallas Cowboys. Earlier this offseason, Baltimore lost a coin flip to Dallas to determine which team would receive the 16th selection.