How Each of the Ravens' Rookies Will Do in 2011
The Ravens moves during the 2011 off-season have indicated that the team is beginning a youth movement. Since free agency began, they have lost seven of their 2010 starters-many of which were older and proven veterans. The Ravens have been quiet in free agency, mostly choosing to replace their starters with younger players on the team.
This youth movement puts more importance in the Ravens 2011 draft class. Some of these players were drafted with immediate starting positions in mind while others were drafted for supporting roles this year.
After one week of preseason and nearly two weeks of training camp, the Ravens have finally gotten a look at their draft picks. In this slideshow, I'll predict which ones see lots of playing time and which ones better get comfortable on the bench.
Jimmy Smith actually dropped down the board on draft day. He was regarded as a top-10 talent but teams passed on him due to character concerns. The Ravens are confident that he has matured and will not cause any off-field trouble.
Smith is more of a shutdown corner, something the Ravens have been lacking for years. He had zero interceptions last year because teams rarely threw in his direction. Other things that work in his favor are his 6-foot-2 height and his 40-yard speed (in the low 4.4 s.)
The Ravens secondary was obviously a major weakness last year. With the loss of Josh Wilson in free agency, Smith has the perfect opportunity to play a lot his rookie year. Of all the rookies he has the best chance of starting in week 1. Even as a rookie he may already be the best cornerback on the Ravens rooster and he has an enormous amount of potential.
In 2010, the Ravens had one of the oldest wide receiver corps in football. Not surprisingly it was also one of the slowest wide receiving corps. For 2011, the Ravens have added a lot of new faces to the receiver position with the only experienced returning player being Anquan Boldin.
Torrey Smith looks to be one of those new receivers that make an impact. The Ravens drafted him in the second round at the 58th pick. His big-play speed and size give him the potential to develop into a starting NFL receiver.
The acquisition of Lee Evans seems to hurt Smith's starting aspirations for 2011. Instead, it looks like veterans Boldin and Evans will start, giving new players like Smith a chance to adjust to the NFL with less pressure. Smith could match T.J. Houshmandzadeh's 30 receptions and 3 touchdowns, perhaps having slightly better numbers.
Jah Reid was drafted in the 3rd round with an immediate starting position in mind. Reid is now competing with Oniel Cousins for starting right tackle.
Reid is one of the bigger linemen at 6-foot-7 and 327 pounds. He uses his size well when pass blocking, forcing rushers to go wide past the pocket. Perhaps his main issue is that he plays too high.
Right now, it seems like Cousins will start at right tackle. Still Cousins has struggled with consistency so Reid could see a good amount of playing time. Should any injuries happen at left or right tackle, Reid could see his opportunity to start.
Just two rounds after selecting Torrey Smith, the Ravens added another receiver with Tandon Doss. Graded as one of the best second-tier receivers in the draft, Doss’s abilities to make plays in space and catch the ball in a crowd are some of his strengths.
Doss has already made a good impression on his most important critic. Joe Flacco listed Doss at the top of a list of six mid-level receivers. This chemistry with his quarterback should work in Doss's favor over the next couple of years.
The odds seemed stacked against Doss starting in 2011. Boldin, Evans and Smith are ahead of him on the depth chart. Receivers like David Reed and Marcus Smith could challenge Doss for the 4th receiver spot. For now, it looks like Doss will be 4th string this year though he should rise up the depth chart in coming seasons.
Chykie Brown was drafted as a compensatory pick in the 5th round. His great speed is impressive as he can stick with most receivers. However, he misses many tackles and struggles in run support.
Brown only had two interceptions in his college career. Most of it was due to other players throwing the ball from him but there were multiple opportunities where he failed to come away with the ball.
It's unlikely that Brown will start in 2011. Veterans like Carr, Webb or Dominique Foxworth should all get more playing time, as should Jimmy Smith. Brown may come in on some specific defensive plays as the Ravens try to develop him into a legitimate starting cornerback.
The Ravens picked Pernell McPhee at 165 directly after Chykie Brown. Coming out of high school, he was one of the nation's top defensive linemen. His profile took a huge hit when he had to attend Itawamba Community College due to academic issues.
The loss of publicity turned out to McPhee's gain in statistics. In two years at the junior college level, he had 33 sacks. McPhee later transferred to Mississippi State where he had less sacks but still improved his game resulting in all SEC honors both years.
McPhee certainly has a great opportunity as the Ravens are looking for someone to replace Kelly Gregg on the defensive line. However they are looking for someone good at pass rush which is an area McPhee struggles in. He may get on the field sometimes this year but it seems more likely that players like Corey Redding and Arthur Jones will get more playing time at the defensive end position.
Tyrod Taylor, known for being a great duel-threat quarterback with tremendous running ability, comes to the Ravens a year removed from winning ACC offensive player of the year. He was one of Virginia Tech's finest quarterbacks as he set a school record with 24 touchdowns.
Although the Ravens didn’t draft Taylor with the intention of replacing Flacco, he is already high on the team’s depth chart. Currently he is the backup quarterback after Marc Bulger's unexpected retirement. Should anything happen to Flacco, Taylor will have to start at quarterback for the Ravens.
Flacco has been remarkable his first three seasons, starting every game as well as seven postseason games. Although Taylor has promise, he doesn't seem NFL ready. The Ravens will likely make a move to get a veteran backup who could get the team a few wins should the unthinkable happen and Flacco gets hurt.
Anthony Allen was the Ravens final draft pick in the 2011 draft being picked in the 7th round. This pick looks good with after the recent departures of Leron McClain and Willis McGahee. With Ray Rice the unquestioned starter, the Ravens needs one or two guys to come in several plays a game.
Allen has a lot to offer at running back as he finished 2nd in rushing in rushing in the ACC last year. He also compliments Rice very well since he is a power running back known for his huge burst.
The Ravens seemed to have found Rice's primary backup with their recent signing of Ricky Williams. Still there could be times where Rice or Williams aren't able to play. In that case either Allen or Jalen Parmele should be able to fill in and do a good job running the ball. For now Allen will stay on the bench and learn from one of the best running backs in the game.
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