With five days having passed since Thursday's first round, most NFL draft experts have released their grades. The Baltimore Ravens remain in the good graces of these "teachers" as most experts are grading their 2014 haul with either an A or a B.
To be fair though, it's hard to really gauge how successful a draft was right after the fact. It's likely that a major reason draft experts praise the Ravens' draft moves year after year is because of the track record established by general manager Ozzie Newsome. But the fact remains that doubt does still exist as Ozzie is only human and there have been some large disappointments in recent years (Sergio Kindle, Michael Oher, Terrence Cody). Even solid early picks like Jimmy Smith and Courtney Upshaw have struggled a bit in finding regular playing time. That could change for the former this year, the latter has the misfortune of being stuck in an impressively deep linebacker corps.
One that grew even deeper after the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. The Ravens made a surprising move by taking C.J. Mosley out of Alabama. It's not surprising that Ozzie loves Bama players and frequently drafts them. The main reason this move was surprising was because middle linebacker wasn't perceived as a position of need for the Ravens.
Daryl Smith had a great season last year, arguably ranking as the team's defensive MVP. He is a little older though and it's likely that his production will only go down from 2013. Also, his new deal is really only for the next two years meaning that he could be gone as soon as 2016 .
Arthur Brown had an exceedingly disappointing 2013. Still an enormous amount of potential exists for this second-year player whose known largely for athleticism and speed. My guess is that the Ravens see him and Mosley as the future starters at middle linebacker. It's just doubtful that will materialize in 2014 with Smith still back in the fold.
Mosley has the skill needed to start right away. Many experts viewed him as a top 10 talent and it's clear the Ravens' front office did as well. A defensive captain on the vaunted Crimson Tide defense, Mosley has the potential to develop into a top defensive captain. With Brown likely needing more time to develop, it wouldn't be surprising to see Mosley and Smith starting in 2014.
The defense received further attention with the second round pickup of Timothy Jernigan out of Florida State. Defensive line was another pressing need thanks to the Ravens losing Arthur Jones in free agency. Jernigan has the potential to make an immediate impact at defensive tackle, where he could likely be competing against the underwhelming Terrence Cody.
The third round pick of Terrence Brooks, also from Florida State, addressed the free safety position. This position looked incredibly week going into the draft with Darian Stewart set to compete against Jeromy Miles for a starting role. Brooks is known for being a great cover safety and due to the weak competition, he might have the most realistic starting aspirations among the Ravens' rookie class after Mosley.
After acquiring Owen Daniels in free agency, it didn't seem as though the Ravens had any need for another tight end. So it was surprising to see them take Colorado State TE Crockett Gillmore towards the end of the third round.
However the pick definitely has potential even if it doesn't seem to be in a position of need. Blocking tight ends are unsexy in today's NFL but they are still a vital ingredient for success. It's just tough to see why they pulled off this head-scratching move as they took Gillmore nearly 60 picks earlier than where he was projected to go. It's even more baffling when you see that Gillmore's only played tight end for three years.
In the fourth round, the Ravens again built up the defensive line by adding Brent Urban from Virginia. Urban's a bit of a raw prospect but he's known for his athleticism. He also was formerly projected as a second-rounder so he's got promising potential.
With a Ray Rice suspension looming, the Ravens knew that another running back would be needed. Running back is one of those positions that frequently go late in the draft, this was the second year in a row none went in the first round.
[LorenzoTaliaferro] was still a surprising pick though, as he came from Coastal Carolina. Despite his small school status, Taliaferro projects as a good fit for Gary Kubiak's offense. He's a 230-pound one-cut runner who should thrive in goal-line and short-yardage situations. An area that the Ravens maddeningly fell short in time and time again last year.
I'm amazed that the Ravens waited all the way to the fifth round to address the offensive line. This fact is made all the more amazing when considering none of the nine players they drafted are right tackles. It looks like Rick Wagner now has the inside track on securing that starting role.
Though he won't likely be starting this year, John Urschel from Penn State could be future starting material. He could play at either guard or center, which means he's not really a threat to take over the empty right tackle spot.
Unlike the typical offensive lineman, Urschel has had a brilliant academic career. He's won the William V. Campbell trophy, also known as the academic Heisman. He's got a master's degree in math and has had an academic paper published entitled "Instabilities of the Sun-Jupiter-Asteroid Three Body Problem." It's not hard to see the Matt Birk comparisons and who knows, maybe in a few years Urschel will also be a starting center.
For three years now, Tyrod Taylor has lurked on the sidelines as the option if Joe Flacco goes down. Something that came close to happening last year. Despite his ability to escape the pass rush, Taylor does not inspire many as an adequate backup QB who could win a few games. The position needed an upgrade.
Sixth-rounder Keith Wenning was drafted to give Taylor some competition for the backup spot. Wenning is very developmental and he could easily be the No. 3 guy in 2014. He's known for having great poise and it's heartening to see that he led Ball State to 10 fourth-quarter comebacks during his time there.
Wenning was originally supposed to be the Ravens' last pick, but there was one more draft day surprise up Ozzie's sleeve. The Ravens traded back into the seventh round and finally added a receiver to the mix. The offseason addition of Steve Smith had lessened the need, but nevertheless it was still there.
Despite last year's emergence from undrafted wideout Marlon Brown, you can't expect too much from Michael Campanaro of Wake Forest. Campanaro was largely on the Ravens' radar because he's a local kid who played high school football in Howard County. As a shifty slot receiver and a skilled returner, Campanaro should find a place on the roster as a backup receiver.
So that's it for the 2014 Baltimore Ravens' draft. I like what Ozzie did overall even if the best player available mantra caused some strange moves. The defense definitely was the big winner this year and it's very exciting to consider what this progressively younger unit will look like in a few years.