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.

Advertisements

Re-Capping the Falcons Draft

Following up the Arizona Cardinals draft feature, we’re continuing alphabetically with the Atlanta Falcons.

As we get further towards the season, I’ll be adding more information gleaned from camp reports about each and every rookie.

Expect a new feature every Sunday and Wednesday, with completed segments posted on the Team-By-Team Selections page.

Round 1, Pick 22 – Washington CB Desmond Trufant

Senior 6’0″ 190 lbs 4.38 40-yard 16 bench reps

NFL Comparison: Corey Webster

Trufant is athletic and he’s scheme versatile. Like a younger Webster, he can press and will succeed in both zone and man coverage in the NFL.

He lacks top speed (he’s not as fast on the field as his 40 time may lead to believe) while at the same time lacking a fluidity of movement that could be a negative in man coverage at the professional level. All the same, Trufant has the skill set to start outside and versatility to move from side to side of the field.

Trufant should excel given time to learn the game, but he needs to improve as a physical corner if he’s to match up against true no. 1 receivers — Atlanta is reportedly looking to start Trufant opposite stalwart Asante Samuel with the intention of Trufant locking down top receivers. Expect the rookie to struggle at first, but there is talent capable of a starting corner in the first-round pick.

The addition makes sense for Atlanta, as the departures of Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson leave a definitive hole opposite Samuel outside. Slot corner Robert McClain will likely keep his role as a nickel and dime package sub, leaving Trufant with a starting position as a rookie.

Round 2, Pick 28 (60) – SE Louisiana CB Robert Alford

Redshirt Senior 5’10 188 lbs 4.34 40-yard 17 bench reps

NFL Comparison: Alphonso Smith

Alford’s size is an unappealing sight for many when considering a cornerback. However, Alford’s vertical ability is similar to Alphonso Smith in that he plays like a much taller corner than his stature. Even with his height, Alford has a typical slot corner skill set, with burner wheels and ball-hawking abilities (10 interceptions at SE Louisiana — four as a senior).

As the second corner selected by Atlanta, there are less expectations being placed on the small-school product than first-rounder Desmond Trufant. Alford’s selection makes for a very talented corner group in Atlanta, as the starters are shaping up as Asante Samuel and Trufant with Robert McClain and Alford chipping in as nickel and dime backs at the least — there is still a chance that Alford could claim a starting role in camp over the more heavily lauded Trufant.

Round 4, Pick 30 (127) – Clemson DE Malliciah Goodman

Senior 6’4″ 176 lbs 4.78 40-yard 26 bench reps

NFL Comparison: Robert Ayers

Goodman’s assets as a run defender make him an ideal replacement for John Abraham in the long term, as the Falcons are needy in that area. While often criticized for lacking burst off the snap, the Clemson product has both big hands and long arms that give him an advantage gaining leverage on blockers and reaching to swat passes.

Goodman will see little time on the field as a rookie, with the likes of Kroy Biermann and free-agent acquisition Osi Umenyiora blocking his time at end, but will likely be involved in sub packages as an edge-setter in run defense. With some work on technique and time to prove doubters of his on-field motor wrong, Goodman could develop into a valuable defensive end for the Falcons.

Round 4, Pick 36 (133) – Stanford TE Levine Toilolo

Redshirt Junior 6’8″ 260 lbs 4.79 40-yard 17 bench reps

NFL Comparison: Scott Chandler

As the complementary blocking tight end to fellow 2013 NFL Draft selection Zach Ertz in his time at Stanford, Toilolo is known more for his blocking chops than receiving abilities. However, that doesn’t mean the monstrous tight end can’t catch — Toilolo caught four touchdowns in his junior year before declaring for the draft.

Plus height and long arms make Toilolo a threat both as a vertical receiver and at the goal line, with his excellent blocking abilities allowing the Falcons to rely on the veteran Tony Gonzalez as the pass-catching end again this season.

Round 5, Pick 20 (153) – TCU DE Stansly Maponga

Redshirt Junior 6’2″ 256 lbs 4.84 40-yard 30 bench reps

NFL Comparison: Dwight Freeney

Maponga drew comparisons to Freeney in his junior year and leading into the draft because of a fine-tuned spin move, a pass-rushing technique that has made Freeney a household name with football fans.

Teams were scared away from the TCU product after the revelation that Maponga underwent foot surgery in March after playing his junior season with the injury — only managing four sacks after an extremely productive (13.5 TFL, 9 sakcs, 5 forced fumbles) in his sophomore season. With excellent technique and deceptive strength for a finesse end, Maponga makes for an excellent complement to fourth-rounder Malliciah Goodman for the future.

Round 7, Pick 37 (243) – Central Florida S Kemal Ishmael

Senior 5’11” 201 lbs 4.63 40-yard 21 bench reps

NFL Comparison: Derrick Martin

Ishmael was a productive tackler out of the defensive backfield at Central Florida, but athletic limitations place a clear question mark on how much the projected safety can do on the field. It’s tough to find a true comparison for Ishmael, but Martin is a good fit because of his reputation as a special teams stalwart and a hard worker. An above-average tackler, Ishmael will have an up-hill battle to establish a roster spot as a special teams player in camp.

Round 7, Pick 38 (244) – Notre Dame S Zeke Motta

Senior 6’2″ 213 lbs 4.75 40-yard 11 bench reps

NFL Comparison: Craig Dahl

Motta is a converted linebacker who’s tackling chops and overall lack of lateral ability made the Notre Dame coaching staff consider moving him to safety. Well-sized, yet a bit on the weak side for an in-the-box safety, Motta’s tackling abilities may earn him a special teams berth — if he can beat out the likes of fellow seventh-round rookie Kemal Ishmael.

Round 7, Pick 43 (249) – Duke QB Sean Renfree

Redshirt Senior 6’3″ 219 lbs 4.76 40-yard

NFL Comparison: Matt Hasselbeck

Renfree became a bit of a buzz-worthy prospect after quarterback guru Mike Mayock picked the Duke product as his sleeper quarterback of the draft due to his natural abilities under center — notably above-average anticipation and timing in combination with excellent work ethic and passion for the game. Essentially, Renfree has many of the ‘quarterback intangibles’ that draftniks like Mayock look for in sleeper picks.

With endorsements from many analysts and the coaching of Duke’s well-known quarterback coach David Cutcliffe, Renfree has high expectations for a compensatory pick, but will have plenty of time to mature behind Falcons starter Matt Ryan.

Renfree has little competition for the backup spot to Matt Ryan, with 2012 undrafted rookie Dominique Davis and 2013 undrafted rookie Seth Doege as the only other quarterbacks on the roster.

FINAL DRAFT GRADE: B

This draft class is a bit of hit-or-miss for the needs of the Falcons — while they did get the starting corner (or corners) they needed, the team didn’t manage to find a linebacker or starting defensive end to shore up positions of need. As of now, it looks as if the team is counting on Tony Gonzalez to put up another starter-caliber season before retirement and Osi Umenyiora to perform better than many teams expect out of the 31-year-old veteran. Atlanta managed to pick up an underrated signal caller in Renfree late in the draft along with a duo of defensive ends and corners that should contribute in the future.

Atlanta has a very well-off squad, and this draft class should help bolster the defensive backfield in the short term and several spots on the defense in the long-term, with Toilolo making for an interesting prospect at tight end.

Next up, Baltimore Ravens! Check in Wednesday for our next draft feature!


Re-Capping the Cardinals Draft

It’s been a bit since the draft concluded, so I figured it was about time to get some more analysis done on each pick for each team. To this point, our first segment features the Arizona Cardinals.

As each segment is completed, they’ll be added to the Team-By-Team Selections page.

Round 1, Pick 7 – North Carolina OG Jonathan Cooper

Redshirt Senior 6’2″ 311 lbs 5.07 40-yard 35 bench reps

NFL Comparison: Ben Grubbs

Cooper, a four-time All-ACC selection, is athletic for his size and it shows in his ability to get to blocks in the run game and displays incredible quickness and fluidity as a pass-blocker. He could improve strength-wise to counter stronger defensive tackles, but is already a more-than capable guard at the professional level before playing a single snap. Cooper can play all three interior line positions, but right now the likeliest position is right guard following the release of incumbent starter Adam Snyder — and the fact that Daryn Colledge was considered the Cardinals best starter along the line at left guard last season.

Round 2, Pick 13 (45) – LSU ILB Kevin Minter

Redshirt Junior 6’0″ 246 lbs 4.70 40-yard 25 bench reps

NFL Comparison: Joe Mays

Like Joe Mays (who has started for Denver as a run-stuffer over the past two seasons), Minter is an undersized tackling machine who should excel as a run defender and in zone coverage. Minter plays physically and projects as a two-down thumper at the professional  level — which is just what Arizona needs at 3-4 inside ‘backer opposite dynamic starter Daryl Washington. Even with the addition of Karlos Dansby, the loss of Washington due to suspensions will allow Minter to compete with Jasper Brinkley and Lorenzo Alexander for a starting spot immediately.

Round 3, Pick 7 (69) – LSU DB Tyrann Mathieu

Junior 5’9″ 186 lbs 4.46 40-yard 4 bench reps

NFL Comparison: Antoine Winfield

Mathieu played extensively in the slot at LSU, playing with physicality and aggressiveness as a corner. The plan in Arizona is to transition Mathieu to safety in his rookie season — although there’s a distinct possibility he could be utilized to cover slot receivers, regardless of inferior size. Matheiu’s presence will likely work as a symbiotic relationship with Patrick Peterson, as the coaching staff is relying on Peterson’s presence as a way of keeping Matheiu’s off the field issues in check, while Matheiu can in turn serve as a returner and allow Peterson to develop as a shut-down corner. Mathieu has playmaking ability and great tape from his days at LSU — if he can stay out of trouble Mathieu will likely carve himself a role in the Cardinals’ defense from day-one.

Round 4, Pick 6 (103) – Texas OLB Alex Okafor

Senior 6’5″ 264 lbs 4.92 40-yard 21 bench reps

NFL Comparison: Ray Edwards

Okafor will have an interesting rookie campaign, as he’s going to be making the ever-so-difficult transition from college defense end to pass-rushing outside ‘backer in the pros. Okafor is an interesting selection for Arizona simply because it seemed he’d be more of a fit in a 4-3 scheme due to his run-stopping abilities — 4.92 speed isn’t all that good for a stand-up rusher at the professional-level. At the same time, Arizona’s need of pass-rushers is well documented after a season that saw Sam Acho disappoint as a fill-in at outside ‘backer. A former defensive tackle prior to converting to end as a junior, Okafor relies on strength and bull rush technique to get past blockers, which would better suit him to a run-stuffing position like left end — where the complementary pass-rush abilities would be highly valued. Still, in the fourth-round Okafor is a solid value pick for Arizona.

Round 4, Pick 19 (116) – James Madison OG Earl Watford

Redshirt Senior 6’4″ 300 lbs 5.05 40-yard 24 bench reps

NFL Comparison: Cooper Carlisle

Like Carlisle in his days with Denver, Watford is a bit of a smaller guard who excels in zone blocking schemes due to his athleticism. Following the selection of Cooper in the first-round, Arizona is clearly selecting the JMU product with the potential of developing into a swing guard or to groom Watford as a potential replacement for veteran Daryn Colledge.

Round 5, Pick 7 (140) – Stanford RB Stepfan Taylor

Senior 5’9″ 214 lbs 4.70 40-yard 17 bench reps

NFL Comparison: BenJarvus Green-Ellis

Following the departure of Toby Gerhart to the NFL, Taylor took over as Stanford’s every-down back. Built like a fullback and a runner with the skill set of a pass-blocking fullback, Taylor displays ball security skills in combination with a plodding run-style that may limit his time on the field. With 97 receptions in college and a reputation as a good pass-blocker, Taylor may be able to steal some late-down snaps from Rashard Mendenhall and Ryan Williams as a rookie — that is if either runner is healthy enough to play. It will probably be a bad sign for Arizona if Taylor sees the field often in his first season.

Round 6, Pick 6 (174) – Texas A&M WR Ryan Swope

Redshirt Senior 6’0″ 205 lbs 4.28 40-yard 16 bench reps

NFL Comparison: Eric Decker

Swope has very solid measurables, with great straight-line speed, decent size and good strength for receiver. Not only has Swope drawn comparisons to Decker for reasons of possibly being a contributor right from his rookie season, but the Aggies product also has drawn comparisons to prolific slot receiver Brandon Stokley due to his route knowledge and awareness of the field. Swope can play both in the slot and outside, like Decker, and could line up wherever asked with receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd as solid starters. If he can prove concussion worries are a thing of the past, Swope has a good chance to contribute as a rookie — especially now that Arizona has Carson Palmer at the helm and Bruce Arians’ vertical pass attack being implemented.

Round 6, Pick 19 (187) – Clemson RB Andre Ellington

Redshirt Senior 5’9″ 199 lbs 4.54 40-yard

NFL Comparison: DeMarco Murray

Don’t let his straight-line 40 speed mislead, as Ellington is an explosive runner — and quite possibly the most explosive runner on Arizona’s roster. Ellington flashes an ability to burn in space and make would-be tacklers miss with excellent stop-and-go acceleration and smooth cutting skills. As a runner, Ellington needs to learn to let his blockers set up holes rather than simply rely on his abilities to shake defenders, but at the same time he displays an exceptional ability to get extra yards and fall forward for a back of his size. Ellington showcases more ability to develop into an impact runner at the professional-level than fifth-rounder Stepfan Taylor.

Round 7, Pick 13 (219) – Rutgers TE D.C. Jefferson

Redshirt Senior 6’6″ 255 lbs 4.99 40-yard

NFL Comparison: Richard Quinn

Jefferson is a pure blocker at this point in his career, with no more than 20 receptions during each season during his time at Rutgers and only a measly two touchdowns. There is a decent chance that Jefferson will end up on the practice squad, but Jefferson could carve out a role as a special teams player if he makes the roster.

FINAL DRAFT GRADE: B+

The Cardinals picked up some very useful pieces in this year’s draft, including a late-round steal of Andre Ellington. However, as the same time Cooper was undoubtedly over-drafted as a top-ten pick (no guard has gone in the top-ten in over a decade). With the exception of Jefferson and Watford, each other Cardinals rookie is likely to carve out a role in their first seasons.

That’s it for Arizona. Next up with be the Atlanta Falcons!