Breaking Down Baltimore Ravens' Roster After the 2015 NFL Draft
The Baltimore Ravens are a vastly different team now than they were when the offseason began.
It's too early to tell if they're as good as the 2014 team that won 10 games and made it to the divisional round of the playoffs. With so many different faces, there's a lot of uncertainty as to how good this team can be next year.
That's what happens when you lose your top receiver in Torrey Smith, No. 1 tight end in Owen Daniels and an All-Pro lineman in Haloti Ngata.
Before the draft, it was probably safe to say Baltimore had taken a step back from last year. However, a stellar draft class that's drawn rave reviews now has Baltimore on the rise.
Whether Baltimore is better or worse than last year may be unclear, but one thing is for sure: All of these moves have caused significant changes throughout the roster.
Here's a look at what the Ravens' roster looks like heading into the offseason.
Starter: Joe Flacco
Backups: Matt Schaub, Keith Wenning
After Baltimore did not draft a quarterback this year, they'll likely carry three signal-callers into next season.
Joe Flacco will once again be the starter for as long as he's healthy. To this point, he hasn't missed a game since being drafted in 2008. There's no reason to expect 2015 will be any different.
Flacco had a bounce-back 2014 after a horrendous 2013. He threw for 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 2014 after throwing 22 picks versus 19 touchdowns in 2013.
Backing him up this year will be Matt Schaub, whom the team signed this offseason. He spent a year with the Oakland Raiders backing up Derek Carr.
Schaub does have significant starting experience from his days with the Houston Texans, but he's long past his days of being a starter.
Keith Wenning is a project who will either make the roster as a third QB or spend another year on the practice squad.
Starter: Justin Forsett
Backups: Lorenzo Taliaferro, Javorius 'Buck' Allen, Fitzgerald Toussaint
Starter: Kyle Juszczyk
Backups: Kiero Small
Baltimore's backs will look somewhat different in 2015, even after free-agent running back Justin Forsett was re-signed. Forsett was the workhorse back for the Ravens in 2014, rushing for 1,266 yards (fifth-most in the NFL) to go with eight touchdowns.
He'll continue to be the No. 1 back for the Ravens in 2015, but the guys backing him up will look different. Buck Allen was drafted in the fourth round out of USC, and he's good enough to not only win the backup spot, but push Forsett for touches.
He'll battle Lorenzo Taliaferro and Fitzgerald Toussaint for carries during training camp. We may not see a defined backup until Baltimore has played a few regular-season games.
Bernard Pierce was the primary backup last year before being waived this offseason after being arrested for DUI.
At fullback, Kyle Juszczyk will remain the full-time starter after taking over the spot in 2014. Not only is he a good blocker in the run game, but Juszczyk was a solid option in the pass game coming out of the backfield.
Backing him up, at least in training camp, will be Kiero Small, but he's more of a camp body who probably won't make the final 53-man roster.
Starters: Eugene Monroe, Ricky Wagner
Backups: James Hurst, Marcel Jones
Starters: Marshal Yanda, Kelechi Osemele
Backups: John Urschel, Jah Reid, Robert Myers
Starter: Jeremy Zuttah
Backup: Ryan Jensen
Baltimore will once again have one of the NFL's best offensive lines after keeping its unit together this offseason.
At offensive tackle, Ricky Wagner was one of the biggest breakout players of 2015 after becoming the full-time starter at right tackle. He did so playing at a high level and looks like the future at that position.
At left tackle, Eugene Monroe started 11 games but missed five due to a knee injury. If he can stay healthy, he will remain the starting blindside protector.
James Hurst was the primary backup when either of those two was hurt. He's a nice swing tackle who can play on the left and right side.
At guard, Kelechi Osemele and Marshal Yanda are one of the best tandems in football. They'll continue to anchor Baltimore's dominant line.
Jeremy Zuttah started all 16 games at center in his first year with the team. He was a key reason why Baltimore allowed only 19 sacks in 2014.
This group will once again form one of the best offensive lines in football in 2015.
Starters: Steve Smith, Breshad Perriman
Backups: Kamar Aiken, Michael Campanaro, Marlon Brown, Darren Waller, Aldrick Robinson, Jeremy Butler
Baltimore's wide receivers will look significantly different in 2015. They're replacing one of the best receivers the franchise has ever had in Torrey Smith.
He left to sign with the San Francisco 49ers in free agency. Baltimore eventually cut Jacoby Jones too, who was more of a fourth or fifth option.
Steve Smith will once again be a full-time starter in 2015 after starting in every game last year. Likely joining him will be first-rounder Breshad Perriman, who should become a full-time starter in his rookie year.
Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown and Michael Campanaro are in the next tier of receivers who will fight for playing time as the top three receivers.
Those three will likely join Smith and Perriman as the top five receivers. Sixth-rounder Darren Waller will battle Jeremy Butler and journeyman Aldrick Robinson for the sixth spot on the final 53-man roster.
Starter: Maxx Williams
Backups: Dennis Pitta, Crockett Gillmore, Phillip Supernaw
The Ravens traded up in the second round to draft Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams this year. They believe he can be their No. 1 tight end, and he's got that role for now until there's more clarity on Dennis Pitta's situation.
Pitta is still on the roster, but he may be forced to retire at some point this year due to chronic hip issues. He's working out with the team for now, so I'll include him on this list, but I'm not ready to give him his starting spot back.
As for the other backups, the Ravens drafted Nick Boyle out of Delaware in the fifth round to compete with Crockett Gillmore and Phillip Supernaw for roster spots.
Gillmore didn't do much as a rookie out of Colorado State last year, but he did improve as the season wore on and should make the roster again in 2015.
Outside Linebacker 1
Starter: Elvis Dumervil
Backup: Courtney Upshaw
Inside Linebacker 1
Starter: Daryl Smith
Backups: Albert McClellan, Zach Orr
Outside Linebacker 2
Starter: Terrell Suggs
Backup: Courtney Upshaw
Inside Linebacker 2
Starter: C.J. Mosley
Backup: Arthur Brown
Baltimore's best unit will once again be the linebackers.
That was the case last year, and all four starters are back to terrorize opposing quarterbacks—specifically Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil.
They combined for 29 sacks and 98 tackles in 2014. Dumervil was the MVP of the defense after registering a franchise-record 17 sacks.
The only key backer needing replacement is Pernell McPhee. He accounted for 7.5 sacks last year in a situational role. He left to sign a free-agent deal with the Chicago Bears this year.
It will be up to Courtney Upshaw to contribute more in 2015 and make up for the loss of McPhee. He has only three career sacks, so he'll have to find a way to do more there or in other areas.
At inside linebacker, C.J. Mosley and Daryl Smith will be the starters in the Ravens' 3-4 defense. They combined for 261 total tackles, four sacks, three interceptions, three forced fumbles and 17 passes defended in 2014.
Altogether, this position should once again be the strength of the Ravens.
Starter: Chris Canty
Backups: Za'Darius Smith, DeAngelo Tyson, Kapron Lewis-Moore
Starter: Timmy Jernigan
Backups: Lawrence Guy, Brent Urban
Starter: Brandon Williams
Backups: Christo Bilukidi, Lawrence Guy
Baltimore's defensive line was among the best in football last year, but it took a hard hit this offseason with the loss of Haloti Ngata. The All-Pro lineman was traded to the Detroit Lions, but Timmy Jernigan filled in well for him last year when he was suspended for four games.
Defensive end Chris Canty should retain his starting spot with fourth-rounder Za'Darius Smith backing him up. DeAngelo Tyson and Kapron Lewis-Moore will be fighting just to earn a roster spot.
At nose tackle, Brandon Williams will be the full-time starter again after thriving in the role last year. Carl Davis was drafted in the third round out of Iowa, and he'll likely play both nose and defensive tackle.
He's good enough to get playing time at either spot as a rookie. As for the rest, Brent Urban and Lawrence Guy will fight for one of the final backup spots.
Even though it will look different, Baltimore's defensive line should be among the league's best again in 2015.
Starters: Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith
Backups: Asa Jackson, Rashaan Melvin, Anthony Levine, Tray Walker, Tramain Jacobs
Starter: Kendrick Lewis
Backup: Terrence Brooks
Starter: Will Hill
Backups: Matt Elam, Brynden Trawick
Baltimore's secondary will look mostly the same in 2015, with the exception of free safety.
The Ravens lost Darian Stewart this offseason after he signed with the Denver Broncos in free agency. That led to Kendrick Lewis signing with Baltimore.
He spent 2014 with the Houston Texans, racking up 84 tackles, three forced fumbles and two interceptions in 16 games. Lewis will face a challenge from Terrence Brooks for the starting spot but should ultimately win it.
At strong safety, Will Hill should retain his starting spot after overtaking Matt Elam last year. Elam opened the season as the starter, but Hill ultimately became the full-time starter down the stretch.
At cornerback, the Ravens should improve as long as their starters are healthy. Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith are a nice starting tandem, but injuries prevented them from playing together regularly last year. Asa Jackson is a nice third corner, but a knee injury cost him nine games last season.
Fighting for backup spots behind them will be fourth-round pick Tray Walker, Rashaan Melvin, Anthony Levine and Tramain Jacobs. Melvin and Levine showed promise last year, but they're not guys you want playing significant snaps. If Webb, Smith and Jackson stay healthy, this unit will be fine.
Starter: Sam Koch
Starter: Justin Tucker
Starter: Patrick Scales
Backup: Morgan Cox
Baltimore's special teams squad was one of its best overall units last year. That won't change in 2015 with Justin Tucker and Sam Koch back.
Koch averaged a career-high 47.4 yards per punt in 2014 to go with a career-high 43.3 net yards per punt.
As for Tucker, he was once again one of the NFL's best kickers—if not the best—after hitting 29 of 34 attempts (85.3 percent). That included a 55-yarder he hit in a road win at New Orleans on Monday Night Football.
In fact, Tucker's only five misses were from 50-plus yards. At long snapper, Morgan Cox will try to regain his job after tearing his ACL in October.
That led to him being moved to the IR and replaced by Patrick Scales. He did an admirable job in Cox's absence, but those two will fight for one roster spot this year.
Between Tucker and Koch, the Ravens' special teams should again be among the best in 2015.