The reigning Super Bowl champs took a hit this offseason with the loss of some key players including the retirement of future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis. For the Ravens to have a chance at repeating this upcoming season the team will need their rookie class to step up.
Here is a look at the 2013 Ravens draft class and what to keep an eye on throughout training camp with this group.
FS. Matt Elam, Florida
Elam was considered the top safety prospect entering 2012 however was not as solid as in 2011. Elam is an outstanding run defender and a in-the box defender. Frequently assigned to cover the slot receiver. There are times when he flashes tremendous disruption when the play is developing in front of him. Has catch-up speed to chase down when he wants to. Gets hand up to disrupt at the catch point even if head is not turned to locate the football. Elam tries to make big hit far too often, lunges, leads with shoulder, or leaves his feet rather than just wrapping up.
ILB Arthur Brown, Kansas State
The 56th overall draft pick transferred from Miami to the Wildcats where he became a stay and a leader. His 2011 campaign was among the nations best. Brown exhibits strong legs, gets into the ball-carriers and drives them to the ground. Excels when playing against the run but does well in short pass coverage. The knock on Brown from some is that he needs to tone down his pursuit at times so he doesn’t overrun plays. Some will question his size, but Brown plays much bigger than his frame suggests due to strong hands and a physical attitude on contact.
DT. Brandon Williams, Missouri Southern
Williams was a three-time All-Americans which are rare at any level of football. Williams was one to accomplish that feat. The massive kid presents a low center of gravity and strong upper body to push consistently push man-up blockers into the backfield. Gets hands on his man fast, extends his arm to get leverage and can hold his ground. Uses his hands to swim or rip past blockers into the backfield. Also wins gaps by attacking a shoulder or out-quicking his man with a first step. Moves down the line adeptly while engaged to flow with plays. Must prove himself against stronger linemen, also that he has the stamina to be more than a rotational player. Recovered well from offseason surgery for a sports hernia.
OLB John Simon, Ohio State
Simon a two-time team captain at Ohio State, presenting just about everything an NFL team wants in a prospect in terms of strength and leadership. Strong, high-motor defender. Can break down to tackle ball carriers in the backfield. Combines agility with excellent upper-body strength to be a secure and explosive tackler. Simon will need to work on quickness of the snap. Simon will struggle to get off blocks from better tackles and will lose sight of the ball at times.
FB/TE Kyle Juszczyk, Harvard
Juszczyk impressed many at the 2012 Senior Bowl with his play. Has big time skills at the H-back position and possesses experience at tight end as well. The Harvard product displays the ability to catch the ball and understands pass patterns. Could start season as the Ravens full back unless former full back Vonta Leach decides to return to the team.
G/T Ricky Wagner, Wisconsin
After protecting the blindside for Russell Wilson in 2011, Wagner was forced to block for less athletic (and talented) passers in 2012. Wagner strong suit is in the run game. Gets off the snap well and uses his body and strong hands to move defensive ends off the ball and hold the line against bigger tackles. Quick enough feet to reach-block or carry a man down the line on zone runs. Flashes quickness off the snap as a pass protector. Relies on hustle and strength rather than great recovery speed in pass protection. Has to flip his hips to pick up outside blitzers and is beaten on inside lane too easily by quicker ends. Could provide the Ravens with quality depth which they lack at the position.
DE Kapron Lewis-Moore, Notre Dame
Lewis-Moore will be a project for the Ravens. Left January’s BCS Title Game after tearing the ACL in his right knee. Baltimore placed him on the non-football injury list. Plays the three and five-technique positions well, thick build. Possesses a nice combination of strength (he can push single blocks backwards and stand up to double teams) and looks like a 270-pound end with the short-area agility to play head-up or shading the left tackle. Not an elite pass rusher because of a lack of explosiveness off the snap and closing speed.
C Ryan Jenson, Colorado State-Pueblo
Big and powerful kid was a tackle at small school level. His first goal will be to make the team and prove to them he is versatile enough to play multiple positions if needed. Played 46-consecutive games (including 44-consecutive starts) for the Thunderwolves in four seasons.
WR Aaron Mellette, Elon
Perhaps the biggest question of the Ravens offseason was how they will cope with the loss of Anquan Boldin. Mellette could take over that spot however is unlikely with the likes of Doss, Reed and Tommy Streeter vying for the spot. Mellette has good height to be a solid possession receiver at the next level, has enough size to shield defenders on slants. Reliable hands, wins jump balls in traffic and snatches the ball away from his frame whether tracking it over his shoulder or facing the quarterback. Not afraid to go over the middle, and can turn and run if hit in the soft spot of a zone. Long speed will be a concern for Ravens, inconsistent strength as a ballcarrier, shows balance to keep his feet after contact at times but will fail to run through arm tackles.
As the Ravens will get into their first full team workout on Thursday the rookies should get their first taste of NFL training camp.