With their first pick in the 2014 NFL draft, the Baltimore Ravens decided to upgrade their defense and took Alabama inside linebacker C.J. Mosley. It was a little surprising to see Mosley fall to this point, and the Ravens were happy to grab him.
Mosley entered the draft ranked as the top inside linebacker and one of the best overall linebacker prospects. This, after a great senior season in which he won the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker.
With the Ravens, he'll have some good history on his side:
With the 17th pick, the Ravens select MLB C.J. Mosley. First MLB that the Ravens have picked in first round since Ray Lewis in 1996.— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiecsun) May 9, 2014
C.J. Mosley to the Ravens. Last 3 LB/DE drafted in 1st round by the Ravens: Terrell Suggs, Peter Boulware and Ray Lewis #BALpick— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 9, 2014
C.J. Mosley grew up watching Ray Lewis and has always been a Ravens fan. "It's a dream come true." pic.twitter.com/7YWtlcJolE— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) May 9, 2014
Mosley will instantly draw comparisons to former Ravens great Ray Lewis, but that would be an unfair standard for him to live up to.
He's still going to be a quality linebacker for Baltimore, and as you can see by the above tweet, linebackers who the Ravens take in Round 1 have had great NFL careers.
Mosley started in all 13 of Alabama's games at inside linebacker and was the Tide's leading tackler for the second consecutive season, registering 108 tackles and nine tackles for loss to go with five pass breakups.
For his efforts, Mosley was also named SEC Defensive Player of the Year and was a finalist for the Lombardi and Nagurski awards.
ESPN's Jeffri Chadiha believes it's a perfect marriage between Mosley and the Ravens:
Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome also is an Alabama alum, which gives him even more knowledge of what he's getting in Mosley. If you're looking for an early leader for Defensive Rookie of the Year, this is the guy.
As a rookie, Mosley will challenge Arthur Brown for the second starting inside linebacker spot next to Daryl Smith in Baltimore's 3-4 defense.
At the end of the day, I'm not really sure if I like this pick for the Ravens.
On one hand, they got arguably the best inside linebacker prospect and a playmaker who can make an immediate impact as a rookie.
"I'm ready to be a Raven, ready to get on the football field and prove to the fans, prove to the coaches, that I'm ready to play and help this team win," Mosley said during his introductory press conference.
On the other hand, they took Arthur Brown out of Kansas State in the second round of last year's draft (after trading up to get him) to do just that. Does picking Mosley mean they're already losing faith in Brown?
He's not going to push their other starting inside linebacker, Daryl Smith, out of a starting spot after he signed a 4-year, $13.6 million deal this offseason to remain with the Ravens.
That's not even accounting for their need at free safety, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was still on the board at No. 17 for the Ravens to take.
Clinton-Dix was regarded by many as the top free safety prospect in this draft, and he could have probably made a bigger impact for the Ravens as a rookie than Mosley will.
The Grade: B+
Alas, Mosley is too good of a player not to play, and he'll find a way to make an impact for the Ravens in 2014—and possibly even earn a starting spot. Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees made that clear during Mosley's introductory press conference.
"This guy will find his way onto the field, and it will be competition," Pees said. "Nothing is going to be handed to him. He knows that. Obviously, we think he can get on the field or you wouldn't draft him in the first round. We want to get back to the top on defense, and we think this is the guy right here that can lead us in that direction."
At the end of the day, this was a good pick, but not the best one they could have possibly made.