Regardless of right tackle, safety, and the nickel cornerback battles that will ensue at training camp, the Ravens will be looking for more contributions from their recent draft classes.
The second and third year of a player’s performances can be a good gauge to how the player may develop over the long-haul. Usually, you see the biggest jump in players’ development in those years as they have had time to acclimate to the NFL game, and they can take full-advantage of the professional offseason programs. The Ravens will be hoping for some of their top- and middle-round draft picks to contribute as starters, and/or for some of their middle-and later-round draft picks to develop into key reserves to establish depth.
While the top selections of the 2012 draft class (Courtney Upshaw, Kelechi Osemele, and Bernard Pierce) were major immediate contributors on the Super Bowl winning team of 2012, last year’s 2013 draft class was mainly a non-factor. Aside from Matt Elam, who for a first-round pick underperformed on the field, the draft class barely sniffed the field. Arthur Brown, Brandon Williams, John Simon, Kyle Juszczyk, Rick Wagner, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Ryan Jensen, Aaron Mellette (injured reserve), and Marc Anthony (cut) were non-contributors as rookies.
The Ravens would be pleased to see some of last year’s draft class take a developmental trajectory similar to DeAngelo Tyson—a seventh-round draft pick that started his career on the roster bubble, but then developed into a key reserve along the defensive line rotation.
Below are some players that need to take the next step in their development. I look forward to hearing how they perform in training camp and pre-season games.
Rick Wagner (2013 draft class)
Wagner made progress last year as a sixth lineman in jumbo packages. Now he is the man to beat as the starting right tackle. The coaching staff seems confident that he will deliver.
Brandon Williams (2013)
Williams is an awesome physical specimen. He needs to continue to make the transition from low-level collegiate ball to the NFL. The mental aspect of the game needs to catch-up so he can allow his physical tools to takeover.
Matt Elam (2013)
Elam had a solid, yet unspectacular rookie season. He needs to make the jump from solid starter to playmaker.
Kyle Juszczyk (2013)
Juszczyk struggled from making the transition from Harvard to the NFL. He struggled at the point-of-attack in his blocking last year which necessitated the need to re-sign fullback Vonta Leach. Now, Juice’s heralded versatility will be counted on this year within Gary Kubiak’s offense.
Kapron Lewis-Moore (2013)
Is Lewis-Moore the 2013 version of Art Jones? After taking a red-shirt 2013 season much like Jones did in 2010 (Jones played in two games), will Lewis-Moore become a key contributor on the defensive line? After Jones’ red shirt season, he became a part-time player then went on to become a key Super Bowl starter. The Ravens hope Lewis-Moore follows a similar developmental trajectory.
Kelechi Osemele (2012)
We saw glimpses of dominance and positional flexibility during Osemele’s rookie season when he moved from tackle to guard. Osemele was an above-average tackle, but he has the makings of a stellar guard. His season long positional change at guard was cut short by his back injury. He has potential to be a Pro Bowl guard, possibly even an All-Pro guard. The Ravens would like to see that jump this year.
Asa Jackson (2012)
Suspensions and mental breakdowns have slowed Jackson’s progression, but players and coaches rave about his athleticism. With the loss of Aaron Ross to an Achilles injury, Jackson has an opportunity to seize the nickel position from the underwhelming Chykie Brown.
Pernell McPhee (2011)
An absolute stellar rookie season—six sacks as a situational pass-rusher came from McPhee. Since 2011, he has battled injuries and a position change to linebacker. I am not sure if that is his best fit, and I would like to see him move inside on the line in certain pass rushing situations. Either way, with Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil being older veterans, the Ravens could use McPhee to return to his rookie production level, if not more.
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An avid sports fan, and a passionate Ravens fan. However, I don't always wear the purple-shaded glasses.