So I'm sitting here bored on a Sunday afternoon, and I figured I would post about a thought I had. A lot of people, myself included, were ecstatic with our 2013 draft class immediately following the draft. Getting both Matt Elam and Arthur Brown was a dream come true for many of us, and it seemed like we'd drafted potential contributors all over the board. Many, however, were disappointed with the actual production of the rookie class. Only Matt Elam saw significant playing time, and he was something of a weakness in deep coverage. Outside of him, only Marlon Brown made a big contribution. Some people rather prematurely named it a horrible draft class, but couldn't disagree more. Here's a brief update on them:
Matt Elam - Coaches and teammates have gone out of their way to praise Elam's growth, particularly on the mental side. Barring injury (knock on wood), he's going to start at strong safety, his natural position. I expect him to excel this year playing closer to the line.
Arthur Brown - Even though he disappointed in his first year, making only 15 tackles in limited duty, he showed some rare ability, including chasing down Adrian Peterson from behind and forcing a fumble on the same play. He's garnered huge praise as well, and is competing with 1st rounder CJ Mosley to start next to Daryl Smith. Though Mosley appears to have gained the edge, running with the 1st team defense towards the end of minicamp, Brown should play a big role rotating in.
Brandon Williams - A physical marvel, Williams is 335 pounds of pure muscle with rare athleticism. Moving from D-II college football to the NFL proved to be a big challenge for Williams, but he showed off his skill here and there too, most notably on one play, where he threw Ben Roethlisberger to the ground with one hand. According to the Ravens website, he is first in line to start in Arthur Jones' old role. Like Brown, even if someone beats him out, he'll still have a big rotational role.
John Simon - 2013's forgotten man, I have heard nothing about John Simon this offseason. That won't deter him though; Simon has an incredible work ethic and will continue grinding no matter what.
Kyle Juszczyk - He sat behind Vonta Leach during his rookie season, and frankly wasn't a great fit for
Cam Cameron Jim Caldwell's archaic scheme. New offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak has said that "Juice" reminds him of another versatile fullback, James Casey, who Kubiak has used well in the past. While fullbacks aren't used too much anymore, Juice is athletic with soft hands, which could allow him to carve out a good role in this offense.
Ricky Wagner - While right tackle was a position of concern after Michael Oher left for a big payday in Tennessee, Ricky Wagner has quietly tightened his hold on the starting job. Barring a disastrous camp and preseason, he'll start the season first on the depth chart. Kubiak has a reputation for making big names out of late round players on the offensive line, and Wagner has a good chance to be his next success story.
Kapron Lewis-Moore - Projected by some as a 2nd round pick, he dropped like a stone after tearing his ACL in the BCS National Championship game. The Ravens allowed him to have a "redshirt year", and now he's healed and ready to go. All reports on him are positive so far, and he, along with 3rd year man DeAngelo Tyson, could be considred Brandon Williams' main competition for Arthur Jones' old spot.
Ryan Jensen - Briefly considered a challenger in the RT competition, Jensen has since been moved back to guard. The organization still loves his versatility, and he should be a solid backup.
Aaron Mellette - Fans were excited about him after he showed promise last preseason, but a knee injury landed him on injured reserve. Lingering effects from said injury caused him to fail a physical recently, and he was released from the team. John Harbaugh has stated publicly that Mellette could certainly return if he gets healthy.
Marc Anthony - Didn't make the final 53 last year. Not much to say here.
Marlon Brown - Not technically a draft pick, but any list of 2013 Raven's rookies without him would be woefully incomplete. Tying Torrey Smith's record for touchdowns by a rookie (7), he comes into year 2 looking for a bigger role. While he'll still be the #3 behind Torrey and Steve Smith, he's reportedly dedicated to improving, and has been following Steve Smith around religiously trying to soak up all his knowledge. He could be another solid red zone threat.
The point I'm trying to make here is that anyone who judged this class to be a bad one after one year was overreacting. It's certainly too early to really tell, but I think all signs point to this class being the exact opposite of terrible: 2 guys (Elam and Wagner) are almost certain starters, 3 guys (Art Brown, Marlon Brown, Brandon Williams) are in a heated competition, and will be starters at best and major rotational players at worst, and one guy (Juszczyk) looks to be a major role contributor. in short, when you have a whopping 6 players from one rookie class competing for real, meaningful playing time, you have to think that the arrow is pointing decidedly upwards for the 2013 rookies.