The Baltimore Ravens have built a reputation as being one of the smartest teams in the NFL when it comes to the draft. Their 2013 draft class was par for the course in this regard, a class widely viewed as one of, if not the best in the NFL. Now that we’re past the halfway mark of the season, we’ve had some time to see how Baltimore’s rookie class is coming along.
Their first pick, safety Matt Elam (32nd, Florida) has had an up-and-down season so far. When the Ravens drafted him, the plan was to bring him along slowly: let him sit behind James Ihedigbo and Michael Huff, get some snaps in nickel-and-dime packages as well as special teams. Well, Huff was awful, playing so badly that the Ravens didn’t stop at just benching him, preferring instead that he left the team entirely, forcing the Ravens to change plans with Elam.
Elam slid into the starting role, but hasn’t played as well as he’d have liked. You can tell he still hasn’t caught up to the speed of the NFL. In turn, he hasn’t been playing at 200 miles per hour like he did at Florida. Inconsistency has been his biggest problem, often making a big play then giving up a big play the next down.
Still, the future is bright for this young buck. Once the game slows down for him, he’ll be the enforcer the Ravens expect him to be.
Their second pick, Arthur Brown (56th, Kansas State) hasn’t made an impact whatsoever. The Ravens had a huge linebacking void due to the retirement of Ray Lewis, and Brown was viewed as a guy who’d be able to come in and start right away, but he hasn’t.
The biggest reason? At 6-foot, 235-pounds, he’s just not big or strong enough to play inside in a 3-4. He gets overwhelmed by mammoth interior offensive linemen. The thing to keep in mind though is that these are problems that can be remedied. He’ll get bigger and stronger in time. The thing you can’t teach, talent, is something Brown has in abundance. In time, he should grow into the player the Ravens expected him to be.
Brandon Williams (94th, Missouri Southern) was the Ravens’ third-round pick. Coming from a small school, everyone knew it would take some time for him to develop and get used to the speed of the professional level. And now halfway through the season, Williams is starting to come alive for a very disappointing Ravens defensive line, recently getting his first sack against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The emergence of Williams was one of the reasons the Ravens let go of Marcus Spears.
The Ravens’ Day 3 picks are still very much mysteries, unsurprisingly. OLB John Simon (129th, Ohio State) has been rock solid on special teams, though it’s still up in the air whether he can make much a pass-rushing impact at this level. FB Kyle Juszczyk (130th, Harvard) has been stuck behind Vonta Leach, though the Ravens are using less and less of the fullback these days.
Don’t be surprised if both are gone next year. OG Ricky Wagner (168th, Wisconsin) has moved to tackle, where he’s backing up both left and right sides. He’s shown some positive signs in development and should be a valuable backup moving forward. DE Kapron Lewis-Moore (200th, Notre Dame), C Ryan Jensen (203rd, Colorado State-Pueblo) and WR Aaron Mellette (238th, Elon) have all been riddled by injuries and haven’t had any impact.
Easily the biggest surprise is undrafted receiver Marlon Brown, whose knee injury at Georgia cost him a draft spot. As of now, he’s second on the team in receiving yards with 297 in addition to his team-leading five TD receptions.
Overall, it’s not a terrible start for the Ravens rookie class, but not what they were hoping for. Considering all of the players they cut or didn’t re-sign after the Super Bowl, they were hoping for this class to make a big impact right away, and that just hasn’t happened. I still think this class has a lot of talent and will make an impact down the road, but so far it just hasn’t happened yet.