For some teams, acing the draft is a struggle. For Ozzie Newsome, it is a piece of cake. There have been some failures and busts throughout the years but 95 percent of the time, he gets it right.
This year’s class faces lofty expectations. With the myriad of departures from the Super Bowl team, several rookies might have to play large roles.
First round: Matt Elam, safety, Florida
Don’t fool yourself, Matt Elam is not replacing Ed Reed. Instead, Elam will take over Bernard Pollard’s role by playing in the box and being the “enforcer” in the secondary. With Elam’s energy and playing style, expect to see him around the ball frequently. Elam was known for his hitting ability at Florida but from what I have seen, he is much better in coverage than advertised.
The only concern for Elam will be his size. He may lose out on many 50-50 balls and his playing style may lead to penalties. But all in all, Elam should have a stellar 2013 season. There will be down points of course but Elam seems to be a quick learner. Expect him to start and make an immediate impact on the stat sheet and fellow teammates.
Round two: Arthur Brown, linebacker, Kansas State
Brown is exactly what any team wants out of a 3-4 inside linebacker. He has ok size but is instinctual, is very fast, and has excellent coverage ability. Oh, he can hit too.
Brown will inevitably be compared to Ray Lewis. While it is unfair, Brown will be unable to avoid comparisons. In training camp, Brown will have to compete with Daryl Smith, Bryan Hall, and Josh Bynes for the second starting inside linebacker position. As of now, Smith probably has the upper hand because of his experience in the league. But I predict that Brown will win the starting spot once training camp is over.
Expect to see a very productive season from Brown. He will be asked to do a little bit of everything for a team in need of improvement on the inside of their defense.
Round three: Brandon Williams, defensive tackle, Missouri Southern State
I firmly believe that Williams will win the starting nose tackle position from Terrence Cody. Williams might not be as big but he is much stronger. Cody really struggled last season and even if he is fully healthy, Williams will win the starting job.
The Ravens’ defense finished 20th in rushing yards per game in 2012. Because of the lackluster performance from the Ravens’ nose tackles, the entire defense struggled. Vast amounts of injuries also contributed to the Ravens’ struggles but I believe the nose tackles were just as responsible. Williams will need to eat up blockers to allow the Ravens linebackers to make plays. I believe he will be able to do this so expect to see a vast improvement in the Ravens defense as a whole.
Round four: John Simon, defensive end, Ohio State
Simon will be an outside linebacker in the Ravens defense. His work ethic and skill set are already drawing comparisons to Jarret Johnson who played for the Ravens from 2003 to 2011. Don’t expect too much from Simon his rookie year. He will play in some blitz packages but will contribute on special teams for a majority of the season.
But that doesn’t mean he won’t make an impact on the field. Simon is a workout warrior. His mentality will influence his team mates to play that much harder.
Round four: Kyle Juszczyk, full back, Harvard
Kyle will get more opportunities this year than expected. Because Boldin is with the 49ers, Pitta’s role will change. I think Pitta will play more in the slot this season. In turn, Ed Dickson will play the traditional tight end position. Because of Kyle’s versatility, he will be able to save the Ravens a roster spot by cutting Billy Bajema and allowing Kyle to play the third tight end spot. He will have opportunities to make an impact as a blocker and receiver in 2013.
Found five: Ricky Wagner, guard, Wisconsin
Wagner will make this team to provide depth along the offensive line. Wagner can play every position on the offensive line which is a very good attribute. With injuries plaguing Jah Reid and Ramon Harewood, Wagner could be called upon should Yanda or Osemele get injured. Wagner might also be an option at center on the rare chance that Gradkowski or Shipley struggle.
Round six: Kapron Lewis-Moore, defensive end, Notre Dame
Before Lewis-Moore injured his ACL in the National Championship game, he could have been a second or third round pick. Now, he is using his rookie year to heal but could make a large impact in future seasons. For now, Lewis-Moore has the opportunity to sit and learn from some of the best defensive lineman in the league like Haloti Ngata and Chris Canty.
Round six: Ryan Jensen, center, Colorado State Pueblo
The Ravens have quite the competition at center. With Matt Birk retired, a young player must step up to be the team’s starter. Jensen has an uphill battle as he will compete with veteran AQ Shipley and projected starter Gino Gradkowski. For the 2013 season, Jensen will likely be placed on the practice squad and could provide depth at the center position in the future.
Round seven: Aaron Mellette, wide receiver, Elon
Mallette is one of several small school prospects in this year’s rookie class. Mallette is not very fast but he catches almost everything and is a good route runner. He is also a dangerous target in the red zone. Mallette finished his college career by catching 18 touchdowns his senior season. That makes for three plus seasons where he caught 12 or more touchdowns. He also finished his college career by recording three consecutive 1,000 yard seasons.
Mellette will most likely be designated to the practice squad in 2013. Like Jensen, Mellette could provide depth for the future or develop into a starter.
Round seven: Marc Anthony, cornerback, California
Anthony is a long shot to make the roster. His only chance will be through special teams. Anthony will compete with everyone but his real competition is Moe Lee, an undrafted free agent from Utah. Lee has shined in offseason programs and like Anthony, is a long shot to make the roster. Anthony still has a chance to make the practice squad though.
When the Ravens are forced to make cuts, the decision could come down to Anthony VS Lee.
Like last year’s rookie class, expect to see rookies making an impact. Players like John Simon or Kapron Lewis-Moore could turn out to be steals.