Although some Baltimore Ravens fans expected the addition of a star running back, the team still managed to make nine valuable moves. Effects of this draft should be seen not only through its immediate contributors, but also in the future after further growth.
Many experts question whether or not the draft was beneficial to the team’s passing game. Others worry about the urgent need for an offensive tackle and cornerback. In recent years, the Ravens have focused primarily on defense. When looking at the big picture, the strong defensive draft somewhat overcomes the poor offensive decisions. They tend to avoid safe picks and go for more creative options, which will hopefully benefit them throughout the next year and beyond. Below are their selections along with a grade for each.
ILB C.J. Mosley, Alabama
Obviously there will never be another Ray Lewis, but Mosley definitely has the potential to get the Ravens’ defense back in the right direction. He performed well at pro day with a 4.63-second 40-yard dash and at the combine with a 4.40-second 20-yard shuttle. Despite his narrow build, Mosley totaled 320 tackles throughout his time at Alabama. I expect him to be a starter this season and imagine great success from this selection. The only downside is that this position was not an immediate need for the team.
DT Timmy Jernigan, Florida State
Regardless of a suspicious diluted drug test at the combine, second-round pick Timmy Jernigan is confident that he can play a major role in the Ravens’ defense. Jernigan definitely helped Florida State reach a victory in the BCS championship game, and is versatile enough to start anywhere on the defensive line.
Some fans fear that he might not be strong enough, but I think he will make a powerful impact on the defensive rotation. Jernigan performed well in the draft with a 4.83-second 20-yard shuttle and 5.06-second 40-yard dash. Although a bit undersized for a defensive tackle, Jernigan was a solid choice and should only improve with time.
S Terrence Brooks, Florida State
Yet another defensive move from the Ravens, third-round pick Terrence Brooks totaled 127 tackles during his career as a safety at Florida State. With a 38-inch vertical jump and 7.35-second 3-cone drill at the combine, Brooks is flexible and fast. He has the ability to contribute to special teams with the speed of a cornerback.
Brooks will have to improve his hands greatly and show more production with the ball, but displays outstanding range and athleticism that the Ravens need as a safety. He played in 10 games as a true freshman and made five interceptions throughout his college career. Hopefully Brooks demonstrates more progress in strengthening his ball skills and makes better plays so that he can begin to influence the defensive line.
TE Crockett Gillmore, Colorado State
The Ravens finally made an offensive selection with the 99th draft pick overall, however, Crockett Gillmore might not have been their best decision. Gary Kubiak makes tight ends a crucial part of his offense, but the third round was a bit early to choose one. I was expecting a running back or receiver to be selected first, and Gillmore tied for the slowest 10-yard time among tight ends at the combine with 1.77 seconds. He ended his three seasons at Colorado State with a total of 111 receptions and eight touchdowns, so maybe he will surprise everyone and exceed expectations. Joining Dennis Pitta and Owen Daniels, Gillmore probably won’t start for a while and has plenty of time to become stronger.
DE Brent Urban, Virginia
Fourth-round pick Brent Urban might have been a risky decision due to recent ankle and knee injuries, however, he has the perfect physique for a defensive end. He was a medical exclusion at the combine, but he started 20 of 36 games in his college career. Producing a total of 75 tackles, Urban has potential to make a major impact on the defensive line and become a future starter.
Growing up in a hockey town of Toronto, Urban does lack some experience and needs to learn how to ignore pressure. He will also need to improve his hand quickness and blocking patterns. It’s hard to tell now if Urban will be an appropriate fit for the Ravens defense, especially with no combine results. Not the Ravens’ best pick, but hopefully Urban’s stature and some additional experience will increase his capability for the starting defensive line.
RB Lorenzo Taliaferro, Coastal Carolina
In the fourth round with the 138th overall pick, the Ravens finally selected a running back. As a college senior, Lorenzo Taliaferro rushed for 1,678 yards and 21 touchdowns. Even though he is from a small school, I think Taliaferro will have a significant influence on goal-line situations and also in producing short yardage.
Sometimes the selections that aren’t really on the radar can work out for the best. Taliaferro’s combine performance went smoothly, with a 4.54-second 40-yard dash and 6.88-second 3-cone drill. Aside from his small hands and limited burst, Taliaferro’s size and production ability could be valuable to the offensive line. He is competitive, alert, and able to contribute to pass protection. After some initial involvement in special teams, Taliaferro should have a substantial possibility to prove himself on the starting offensive line.
G/C John Urschel, Penn State
Known as the most intelligent player of this year’s draft, John Urschel has potential for success inside or outside of football. The Ravens’ fifth-round pick performed strongly at the combine with a 4.47-second 20-yard shuttle and 5.27-second 40-yard dash. Urschel spent his senior year as Penn State’s team captain and finished his college career with a total of 21 touchdown-resulting blocks as well as 181 knockdowns.
Although Urschel has decent leverage and body control, he lacks power and size. He should become stronger and increase his athletic ability, though he is already quick. His protection and movement skills combined with more strength and power in the future will eventually enable him to perform excellently as a center.
QB Keith Wenning, Ball State
Sixth-round pick Keith Wenning might turn out to be a perfect No. 2 quarterback for the Ravens. As a four-year starter and two-time team captain with Ball State, Wenning holds the school’s records for touchdown passes, passing yards, completions, and pass attempts. During his college career he carried out 10 fourth-quarter comeback victories.
At the combine he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.99 seconds and completed the 3-cone drill in 7.07 seconds. Wenning is highly competitive, driven, and consistent. On the other hand, he struggles with deep downfield passes and definitely needs to increase flexibility with his throwing platform. He seems to accomplish the most late in games and with tight windows, which could be useful for the Ravens. After some enhanced athleticism and a more easily manipulated passing technique, Wenning could develop the skills required to become a big-time pro.
WR Michael Campanaro, Wake Forest
Many were surprised to see Michael Campanaro last until the seventh round, but the Ravens were determined to grab him with their final pick in exchange for a 2015 draft choice. Campanaro finished his Wake Forest career as the school’s all-time leader in receptions with 229. His 14 receiving touchdowns also rank eighth in school history. Campanaro was a three-year starter who has great balance and effective running that allow him to easily find holes in zone coverage.
Like a few others in this draft, Campanaro lacks ideal size. His short arms cause him to have a limited catch radius, and he had the smallest wingspan of any other receiver at the combine. This might cause durability to be a problem. However, he executed a 39-inch vertical jump and a 6.77-second 3-cone drill at the combine. I don’t see Campanaro becoming a starter any time soon, but hope he can prove himself on special teams and eventually create some explosive plays. He won’t be the best receiver, but will certainly be one to watch.
Only time will tell whether or not these picks are the best for the Ravens. Overall I think they had a decent draft, although they didn’t make any powerful offensive picks. However, choosing unexpected players can sometimes lead to great results.
Hopefully the Ravens offense, especially Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce, can get it back together this season. Following this year’s draft, the Ravens defense should surely begin to get back on the right track. Let’s hope the upcoming season is better than the last.