Setting Expectations for Each Member of Baltimore Ravens' 2013 Draft Class
From Matt Elam and Art Brown to Aaron Mellette and Marc Anthony, each draft pick has the great opportunity to learn from one of the best coaching staffs and one of the most solid locker rooms in the NFL.
Even though expectations are sky-high, not every player will be an instant contributor. Let's take a look at what to expect from each draft pick, both in the short and long terms. To do so, I'll be looking at their skill set, their fit with the Ravens and any other relevant factors.
Based purely on his play at the college level, the Ravens have to feel confident that Florida safety Matt Elam is a home run at the bottom of the first round.
Elam was a first-team AP All-American, so getting him at the end of the first round is an absolute steal.
Further, Elam is a fantastic fit for what the Ravens both need and want. He has a pro-ready game that features the coverage ability of a cornerback with the big-hitting ability of a strong safety. That means Elam could start at strong safety while also providing slot coverage in nickel or dime situations.
So many analysts have warned that Elam is no Ed Reed, but he doesn't have to be. Elam will make a name for himself, and he has the kind of potential to have a Reed-level impact.
Former Colts safety Bob Sanders is probably a better comparison, as he matches Elam's coverage ability and big hits. Hopefully, Elam will be more durable than Sanders was in his sadly short career.
At minimum, expect Elam to be an immediate starter. Don't be shocked if he becomes a Pro Bowler and a superstar within a couple of years. He's that good, and the Ravens are that good of a fit.
Arthur Brown may have gotten more positive press for the Ravens than even Elam. By all accounts, Brown was an absolute steal who will make a huge impact on the Ravens' defense.
Brown is a true sideline-to-sideline defender, just as capable in coverage as in flowing to the ball in the ground game. That's the kind of linebacker the Ravens needed, as they currently only have thumpers who lack the athleticism to make plays all over the field.
The biggest knock on Brown was his size and block-shedding ability, but those concerns should be mitigated by the Ravens' size elsewhere on their defense. They needed the Ray Lewis-esque linebacker who could aggressively pursue the football and have the speed to find it.
Like Elam, expect Brown to be an immediate starter. He is a great fit for the Ravens' attacking 3-4 defense, and he is an immediate upgrade in passing situations. Also like Elam, Brown has Pro Bowl and superstar potential.
Even out of Division II Missouri Southern, Brandon Williams looks poised to make as big of an impact as his massive frame suggests.
The Ravens were in desperate need of a nose tackle, and the 6'1", 335-pound Williams seems sufficiently sized to fill that gaping hole.
The best facet of Williams' game is that while he pushes guys around like his frame suggests, he has the agility and burst of a much smaller man. So not only does Williams offer a potential upgrade in run defense, but he could also provide increased interior pressure as well.
Williams should immediately challenge Terrence Cody for the starting nose tackle job. Even if his rawness keeps Williams from starting, he should see reps immediately as a rotational tackle with massive upside. The sky really is the limit for this young man.
The Baltimore Sun looks at John Simon as a Jarrett Johnson clone, and they are not far off. He's an edge-setting, difficult to move defensive end/linebacker hybrid who will probably be a better run defender than a pass-rusher.
Johnson left some pretty big shoes to fill in run defense, but Simon actually profiles slightly better as a pass rusher than Johnson ever did. Simon has a decent burst, paired with relentlessness that should help him get some sacks on effort alone. He still needs to develop his moves, though, and he'll never be a true speed rusher.
Realistically, Simon will never be a consistent 10-plus sack kind of guy, but he should offer some decent pressure and solid run defense down the road.
Simon should end up being a consistent rotational contributor for the Ravens early in his career. He has the ability to be a solid starter, but he will probably never become a top-tier pass-rusher.
The Ravens raised some eyebrows when they took a backup fullback in the fourth round, but they must feel strongly about Kyle Juszczyk to take him so highly. A look at the film shows so much more than just a prototypical fullback, and it's that versatility that makes him a valued prospect.
At Harvard, Juszczyk lined up at fullback, tight end and in the slot. He excels both as a lead blocker and a receiver, meaning that Juszczyk will contend for snaps at both fullback and tight end.
Juszczyk is likely the future starter at fullback once Vonta Leach moves on, but he should immediately contend for snaps in a variety of positions for the Ravens.
The Ravens needed help at left tackle, but the rhythm of the draft dictated that they needed to go in different directions. They finally got an offensive tackle in the fifth round, but Ricky Wagner will not be the answer at left tackle.
That does not mean that Wagner doesn't have a future in Baltimore. He is a surprisingly explosive straight-line athlete, but he lacks the lateral quickness to excel as a pass protector in the NFL. He will likely be stuck on the right side in the NFL.
In the short term, Wagner will provide valuable depth at both offensive tackle and guard. Long term, Wagner could compete for a starting spot at both of those spots, but he will never be guaranteed anything.
This was a defensive-focused draft for the Ravens, and the selection of Kapron Lewis-Moore stayed true to the theme. The defensive end is an investment in the future, as an injury incurred in the BCS National Championship Game will likely keep him off the field for the foreseeable future.
Lewis-Moore looks to be an excellent fit as a five-tech in the Ravens' 3-4 scheme, filling a similar role to Art Jones and Pernell McPhee.
His skill set falls in between these two players, lacking McPhee's pass-rushing skill while not being quite as stout as Jones. He is, however, a solid player who should provide valuable depth to the Ravens' front seven as soon as he is healthy. He might never be a starter, but he should develop into a valued role player.
The Ravens needed to find some depth at center, and they did so in selecting Colorado State-Pueblo offensive lineman Ryan Jensen in the sixth round. Jensen is a big, strong and physically imposing offensive lineman who could provide depth in a variety of roles.
Jensen played offensive tackle in college, but he will move to center in the pros, a position the Ravens saw him try in one of his workouts.
Jensen actually has an outside shot at becoming an immediate starter, although the job is Gino Gradkowski's to lose. Jensen offers a stronger, but more raw and slightly less athletic, alternative.
From the beginning, Jensen should provide depth and competition at center. Should Gradkowski not work out as a starter, Jensen will have the opportunity to take his place.
The Ravens were in desperate need of a receiver heading into the draft. They might still be, despite drafting Elon's Aaron Mellette in the seventh round.
Mellette is a big, physical possession receiver who is a savvy route-runner and excels at catching the ball in traffic. Sound familiar? He has a lot in common with departed star Anquan Boldin.
That having been said, Boldin played at Florida State against elite competition. Mellette played at Elon, meaning he has a lot of questions to answer about level of competition. Despite the limited sample size, Mellette did excel against Vanderbilt and at the Senior Bowl.
Mellette is probably the most unpredictable player in the Ravens' draft class. There is an opportunity to be had at receiver, where only Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones are at all established.
That having been said, I'd be shocked if Mellette can beat out Tandon Doss, Tommy Streeter and Deonte Thompson for a roster spot this year. Long term, though, Mellette does have the potential to grow into a solid possession receiver.
A poor 40-yard dash time at the combine knocked Marc Anthony all the way to the seventh round, but his quickness and physicality should help him find a role on the Ravens' defense anyway.
Anthony should be a nice fit in the Ravens' defense, as he likes to play physically in coverage. He can be victimized on longer passes, but his quickness is sufficient to cover the shorter routes.
Anthony's first goal should be to get on to the roster. He probably won't beat out the Ravens' incumbents in the secondary, so his immediate competition will likely be Asa Jackson, last year's fifth-round selection. If he can't beat out Jackson, Anthony will probably be stuck on the practice squad for at least a year.
Long term, Anthony has nickel potential, but he doesn't look likely to hold up against the NFL's better receivers on the outside.