Re-Capping the Baltimore Ravens Draft

Baltimore has had a particularly tumultuous offseason following their miraculous playoff run and ultimately winning the Super Bowl.

The Ravens lost several veteran starters to free-agency, trades and retirement in the previous months, including Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Bernard Pollard and Anquan Boldin — all of which played integral parts in Baltimore’s playoff run. However, the Ravens did manage to acquire ex-Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil following the Faxgate incident that led to Dumervil’s release in March.

This draft class is especially important because there are several holes to fill in the reigning Super Bowl champions’ roster if they’re going to attempt a repeat this season.

Let’s jump right into the Ravens’ draft class.

Round 1, Pick 32 – Florida S Matt Elam

Junior 5’10” 208 lbs 4.43 40-yard 17 bench reps

NFL Comparison: Charles Godfrey

The addition of Michael Huff lessens the impact of the departures of both Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard a bit, as Huff’s athleticism outmatched both that of the aging Reed and hard-hitting Pollard. The addition of Elam gives Baltimore two athletic safeties whose versatility offers the Ravens a plug-and-play option in the defensive backfield.

Like Huff, Elam has a skill set amenable to playing either safety or covering the slot. An instinctual player, the Florida Gators product drew comparisons to Troy Polamalu from draftniks due to his athleticism. Elam is also known for being an instinctual player who reads plays and follows the quarterback’s eyes well.

Elam has a few kinks to work out in his technique if he’s going to excel at the professional level, foremost being tackling technique. Evaluation of game tape shows Elam’s poor technique on open field tackles — a necessity for safeties in the NFL. Additionally, Elam will see NFL coaches attempt to capitalize on his lack of size to make big plays deep. It’s important for Elam to work on deep coverage to make up for his limitations on size and vertical ability.

Round 2, Pick 24 (56) – Kansas St. ILB Arthur Brown

Redshirt Senior 6’1″ 241 lbs 4.68 40-yard

NFL Comparison: Curtis Lofton

Brown was lauded as a potential first-round talent by scouts for good reason — he can do just about every asked of a middle linebacker in the NFL. In the Ravens’ system, Brown has the possibility of becoming a tackling machine in the likes of Arizona’s Daryl Washington.

Brown has a hard-hitting demeanor and is billed as a turnover machine while earning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors after a 100 tackle campaign. This tackling ability looks to translate well to the professional level, as Brown exhibits both solid technique in the box and when moving laterally to bring down runners.

There may be a bit of an adjustment period for Brown after playing in Kansas State’s 4-3 defensive scheme, but his skill set and versatility should make for a capable starter as a rookie opposite Jameel McClain in Baltimore’s stock 3-4 set. It is notable that Baltimore signed former Jaguars stalwart Daryl Smith to man the interior as well, so it should be interesting to see how the trio of Smith, Brown and McClain share snaps.

Round 3, Pick 32 (94) – Missouri Southern DT Brandon Williams

Redshirt Senior 6’1″ 335 lbs 5.32 40-yard 38 bench reps

NFL Comparison: Antonio Garay

Brandon Williams created a buzz at the NFL Combine as a familiar prospect to last year Chiefs first-rounder Dontari Poe following a 38 bench rep performance. Williams is a big body to learn behind Haloti Ngata and Chris Canty in his rookie season, which will allow for the small-school prospect some time to adjust to the professional level.

Williams is Missouri Southern’s all-time sack leader (27) and offers a pass-rush from the interior in combination with his abilities as a nose tackle.

The selection of Williams is an interesting move by Baltimore, as it makes for a warning for former second-rounder Terrence Cody.

Round 4, Pick 32 (129) – Ohio St. DE John Simon

Senior 6’2″ 257 lbs 4.66 40-yard

NFL Comparison: Allen Bailey

Simon’s build is more amenable to a defensive end or pass-rushing linebacker than any other position, and while listed as an end in the draft Baltimore has made it clear that Simon will make the transition to outside ‘backer in his rookie season.

With plus athleticism and a highly lauded on-field motor, Simon has drawn comparisons to James Harrison. Simon will need to learn to rush from a standing position, which is easier said than done, if he’s going to make an impact for Baltimore in the future. He is an interesting prospect for the developmental reasons, but Simon will likely only see the field on special teams as a rookie behind Baltimore’s talented pass-rushing duo of Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs.

Round 4, Pick 33 (130) – Harvard FB Kyle Juszczyk

Senior 6’1″ 248 lbs 4.72 40-yard

NFL Comparison: Garrett Mills

Garrett Mills, like Juszczyk, was an H-back type player drafted in the fourth-round back in 2006 after playing mostly as a tight end at Tulsa. Like Mills, Juszczyk has so far tried to prove himself as a fullback as well as a blocking tight end by doing workouts for teams from the backfield prior to the 2013 NFL Draft.

Juszczyk is already a very stout blocker and the release of Vonta Leach by the Ravens has opened up a starting shot for the rookie in camp. Don’t expect many passes his way, but nonetheless Juszczyk could make an impact in his rookie campaign as a lead blocker and special teams player.

Round 5, Pick 35 (168) – Wisconsin OT Ricky Wagner

Redshirt Senior 6’6″ 308 lbs 5.15 40-yard 20 bench reps

NFL Comparison: Nate Solder

The Solder comparison is one that I will admit is overused in the NFL, but it has become the benchmark comparison when looking at tackles whose strength limitations may result in problems standing up to competition at the professional level. As such, it is important for Wagner to work on adding bulk to his frame and getting his lifting in if he’s ever going to make a starter at tackle for the Ravens.

With that said, Wagner is a hard worker who made the Wisconsin roster after walking on and earning every bit of his playing time. Heading into the draft, there were some concerns about a knee injury, but since then the problem has cleared up and Wagner is practicing for the Ravens. There is potential here for a starting quality player, but Wagner’s athleticism makes it possible for the rookie to contribute immediately as a swing tackle in certain packages.

Round 6, Pick 32 (200) – Notre Dame DE Kapron Lewis-Moore

Redshirt Senior 6’4″ 298 lbs 4.95 40-yard

NFL Comparison: Jerel Worthy

Lewis-Moore has the typical build for an interior pass-rusher, or alternatively, an athletic 3-4 defensive end. That’s exactly what the Ravens expect to get out of the Notre Dame product — just not this season. Due to a torn ACL in the BCS title game versus Alabama, it’s very likely that Lewis-Moore will open the season on the PUP list and ultimately hit the injured reserve with no experience on-field as a rookie.

Mike Mayock, of NFL.com and NFL Network, claimed that Lewis-Moore was a steal for the Ravens due to his explosive edge-rushing abilities in combination with a stout run-stopping ability in a 3-4 defense like that which Baltimore employs. It will be interesting to see if Lewis-Moore loses some of that explosiveness once he’s fully recovered, but any way you look at it the Ravens got a quality pick in the sixth-round here.

Round 6, Pick 35 (203) – Colorado St.-Pueblo OT Ryan Jensen

Senior 6’4″ 317 lbs 5.23 40-yard 30 bench reps

Jensen is another of the so-called ‘guard-tackle tweener’ players that are found in every draft class. Like the Giants first-round selection, Justin Pugh, it’s likely that Jensen will be slotted in at guard at the professional level after playing his college career at tackle.

As a rookie, Jensen will compete for a backup spot along Baltimore’s questionable depth at line. The future will tell if Jensen has a future as anything more than a mere depth player in the NFL.

Round 7, Pick 32 (238) – Elon WR Aaron Mellette

Redshirt Senior 6’3″ 217 lbs 4.45 40-yard 9 bench reps

If you haven’t heard of Elon University before, that’s because it’s a Division I FCS school with a relatively small football program. Mellette made his mark on at the level with 304 catches, 4,254 yards and 44 touchdowns in his four seasons, and offers the Ravens a less-known player with some polish that could contribute at the professional level.

With an opening in the receiver depth chart, Mellette could make a move to start in camp this summer given he learns the offense quickly. There are some concerns that Mellette’s lack of strength could be an issue when dealing with press coverage, so he would do well to put on some muscle before the season starts if he’s going to make an impact in his rookie campaign.

Round 7, Pick 41 (247) – California CB Marc Anthony

Redshirt Senior 6’0″ 196 lbs 4.59 40-yard 12 bench reps

Anthony is on the strong side for a corner, with some smarts for anticipating routes and displayed above-average tackling technique for a corner in his time at California. A lack of speed may be an issue for Anthony in a man coverage system, but the ability to press is evident and he’ll need to pick up a professional defensive system if he’s going to succeed in the NFL. A longshot to contribute anywhere other than special teams as a rookie, Anthony may yet have a future as a corner in the league.

FINAL DRAFT GRADE: B-

Baltimore’s squad experienced a good amount of turnover this offseason, with veteran departures and other acquisitions that will shake up the defense and introduce new faces to Ravens fans. This isn’t to say the team will be worse off in 2013 than in their Super Bowl run, but there are still a few question marks that were left unaddressed. Most notably, the Ravens failed to bring in a receiver to challenge Torrey Smith or Jacoby Jones as a starter — something that is sorely needed following the trade of Anquan Boldin.

The Ravens picked up several solid acquisitions via the draft, including the likes of Matt Elam and Arthur Brown, while also picking up several future potential starters in Brandon Williams, John Simon and Kapron Lewis-Moore, but overall the selections outside of the first two rounds will be a non-factor for at least this season and possibly several years to come — something that’s expected of a few players in each draft class, but not the majority of picks.

With that the Ravens segment is finished. Next up on Sunday, the Buffalo Bills.

As always, head on over to the Team-By-Team Selections page for previous sections, or click on the links below to find a certain team.

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