Breaking Down the Baltimore Ravens Roster After the 2014 NFL Draft
The Ravens entered the offseason with plenty of holes to fill, and through free agency and the draft, they've done a great job of filling nearly all of them.
But there are still some holes that could ultimately cost them this coming season. That is, if their positions of strength don't help them overcome those weaknesses.
Let's take a look through each position as it currently stands.
1. Joe Flacco
2. Tyrod Taylor
3. Keith Wenning
Even after a subpar season in 2013, Joe Flacco is still the face of the Ravens franchise, and he enters 2014 with as much security as any quarterback in the NFL.
The only question surrounding this position is who Flacco's backup(s) will be. Baltimore spent a sixth-round draft pick on Ball State's Keith Wenning, but it's unlikely he'll be able to pass the veteran Tyrod Taylor on the depth chart.
The Ravens will probably carry three QBs into the '14 NFL season, and Taylor is the likely backup in the event Flacco goes down with an injury.
1. Ray Rice
2. Bernard Pierce
3. Justin Forsett
4. Lorenzo Taliaferro
This position has quite a bit of uncertainty as of now. Baltimore will await the result of Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice's third-degree charge of aggravated assault, and if he'll face jail time. This comes from the incident that involved Rice allegedly knocking his wife unconscious at an Atlantic City casino.
Even if he avoids jail time, he's facing a suspension from the NFL that could cost him a game or two.
Backup running back Bernard Pierce is coming off shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum, and it's expected to sideline him until the start of training camp.
Baltimore also signed journeyman Justin Forsett this offseason, but he's barely a worthy third-stringer.
That could leave a big opportunity for playing time this year for Lorenzo Taliaferro, whom the Ravens drafted in the fourth round of this year's NFL draft.
At the end of the day, though, Rice and Pierce are going to be the primary two backs used for the majority of the 2014 season, so long as they're healthy and staying out of trouble.
1. Kyle Juszczyk
The Ravens drafted Kyle Juszczyk out of Harvard in the 2013 NFL draft, and even though they had Vonta Leach at fullback, Juszczyk was good enough to get playing time on special teams.
Once the offseason came, the Ravens released Leach and now look set on making Juszczyk the primary fullback in 2014. As of now, he's the only fullback on the roster.
1. Torrey Smith
2. Steve Smith
3. Marlon Brown
4. Jacoby Jones
5. Michael Campanaro
6. Deonte Thompson
7. Aaron Mellette
8. Gerrard Sheppard
9. LaQuan Williams
10. Jeremy Butler
11. Kamar Aiken
Torrey Smith is going to be the primary receiver once again after being the No. 1 target of Flacco last year.
But outside of Torrey, no other receiver had more than 524 receiving yards in '13. Ravens wideouts only caught 13 touchdowns, and 11 of them were between Torrey and undrafted free agent Marlon Brown.
Baltimore did sign Steve Smith to a three-year deal once the Carolina Panthers cut him this offseason, and he will certainly help boost the Ravens wide receivers unit. Smith and Brown will fight to be the No. 2 wideout next to Torrey.
Jacoby Jones was also brought back after being a decent slot wide receiver last year, and he'll have a great chance to earn that role again this coming season.
After those four, it's untelling as to who will get playing time at wide receiver. Deonte Thompson and LaQuan Williams have been a disappointment in Baltimore, and they'll be battling rookie seventh-rounder Michael Campanaro, Aaron Mellette, Jeremy Butler, Gerrard Sheppard and Kamar Aiken for roster spots.
1. Dennis Pitta
2. Owen Daniels
3. Crockett Gillmore
4. Matt Furstenburg
5. Nathan Overbay
After missing most of the 2013 season due to a hip injury, Dennis Pitta will return to reclaim his status as the No. 1 tight end and one of Flacco's favorite targets.
Owen Daniels was signed to a one-year deal to complement him this year, while third-round rookie Crockett Gillmore develops and replaces him next year.
A fourth tight end is unlikely to be kept, but if one is, Matt Furstenburg and Nathan Overbay will be in a heated training camp battle that continues into the preseason.
1. Eugene Monroe
2. Marshal Yanda
3. Kelechi Osemele
4. Jeremy Zuttah
5. Rick Wagner
6. Ryan Jensen
7. Gino Gradkowski
8. A.Q. Shipley
9. Jah Reid
10. Reggie Stephens
11. John Urschel
12. James Hurst
13. David Mims
The Ravens offensive line is probably set, other than the right tackle spot. Eugene Monroe was acquired via trade from the Jacksonville Jaguars last year, and he went on to lock down the left tackle spot before inking a long-term, $37 million extension this offseason.
Kelechi Osemele and Marshal Yanda are likely retaining their starting guard spots after holding them for the past two years. Jeremy Zuttah was acquired via a trade from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason, and he'll replace Gino Gradkowski as the starting center after Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said that would be the case.
Rick Wagner is the early favorite to start at right tackle after Michael Oher departed in free agency, and the Ravens opted not to sign or draft another tackle this offseason.
Gradkowski and A.Q. Shipley will likely make the roster because of their ability to play both center and guard. Jah Reid is serviceable backup guard who will also likely make the 53-man roster.
That leaves Ryan Jensen, Reggie Stephens, James Hurst, David Mims and fifth-round guard John Urschel to compete for two to four more roster spots that will be used for offensive linemen.
1. Haloti Ngata
2. Brandon Williams
3. Timmy Jernigan
4. Kapron Lewis-Moore
5. DeAngelo Tyson
6. Chris Canty
7. Terrence Cody
8. Derrick Hopkins
9. Cody Larsen
10. Brent Urban
Nose tackle Haloti Ngata is one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL, and a starting spot for him on the Ravens defensive line is guaranteed. Terrence Cody will be his likely backup at nose tackle.
Chris Canty will be favored to win the starting defensive end job, but he'll be facing some stiff competition from some younger rookies.
One of the best players the Ravens lost this offseason was defensive lineman Arthur Jones. Pro Football Focus (subscription required) gave him a plus-15.7 grade, the third-best mark of any Ravens player.
The two players behind him on the depth chart when the season ended were Brandon Williams and DeAngelo Tyson, who combined to play just 247 snaps last year compared to Jones' 529. They are unknowns who may not be able to account for the loss of Jones.
That leaves a big opportunity to compete for playing time for second-rounder Timmy Jernigan and fourth-rounder Brent Urban. Jernigan is more likely to earn playing time at nose tackle, while Urban could get some time at defensive tackle.
1. Terrell Suggs
2. Elvis Dumervil
3. Daryl Smith
4. C.J. Mosley
5. Arthur Brown
6. Courtney Upshaw
7. John Simon
8. Josh Bynes
9. Albert McClellan
10. Pernell McPhee
11. Xavius Boyd
In Baltimore's 3-4 defense, Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil have both of the outside linebacker spots locked up. Daryl Smith also has one of the two inside linebacker spots secured.
That leaves rookie first-round pick C.J. Mosley to compete with Arthur Brown for the second starting inside linebacker spot next.
As for the backups, Courtney Upshaw, John Simon and Pernell McPhee will compete for playing time at outside linebacker, while Josh Bynes, Albert McClellan, Pernell McPhee and Xavius Boyd compete for playing time at inside linebacker.
Of all the above players, the Ravens will likely keep seven of them.
1. Lardarius Webb
2. Jimmy Smith
3. Chykie Brown
4. Asa Jackson
5. Avery Patterson
6. Sammy Seamster
7. Tramain Jacobs
8. Ayodeji Olatoye
The Ravens will start Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith at cornerback, with Asa Jackson and Chykie Brown being the primary backups behind them.
After that, four undrafted free agents will compete for playing time. Avery Patterson and Sammy Seamster were two quality cornerback prospects who didn't hear their names called during the NFL draft.
They'll battle Tramain Jacobs and Ayodeji Olatoye for playing time in training camp and spots on the final 53-man roster.
1. Matt Elam
2. Terrence Brooks
3. Darian Stewart
4. Omar Brown
5. Jeromy Miles
6. Brynden Trawick
7. Anthony Levine
8. Dexter Moody
The Ravens have nice depth at safety following the NFL draft, but they're lacking players with significant starting experience.
Matt Elam started 15 games at free safety last year as a rookie, and he'll likely be moving to his more natural strong safety spot this coming season.
That leaves rookie third-rounder Terrence Brooks to battle veteran backup Darian Stewart for the starting free safety spot.
Omar Brown, Jeremy Miles, Brynden Trawick, Anthony Levine and Dexter Moody will compete for probably two more roster spots that will be used for safeties.
1. Justin Tucker
2. Sam Koch
3. Richie Leone
Justin Tucker is one of best kickers in the NFL, and he's not going anywhere anytime soon. This past season, he became the first NFL kicker to kick a field goal in the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s in the same game, which was an 18-16 win over the Detroit Lions on Monday Night Football.
As for the punter, Sam Koch ranked 13th in net punting average in 2013. For a punter being paid like one of the NFL's best, that's not going to cut it.
Koch is set to make $2.8 million in 2014, which is the eighth-highest salary of any NFL punter.
If the Ravens are able to find a younger option in free agency or undrafted free agent Richie Leone outperforms Koch, Baltimore may choose to cut Koch before the start of the 2014 season.
A Ray Guy Award semifinalist in 2013, Leone averaged 43.1 yards per punt and had 14 punts of more than 50 yards and four of more than 60 yards last year.