Will any Ravens sophomore make much of an impact this season? All in all, the Raven’s 2013 draft didn’t provide the immediate impact that teams are looking for with at least some of their picks. Rounds 2-5 produced Arthur Brown, Kyle Juszczyk, Ricky Wagner, Brandon Williams, and John Simon who all played sparingly and had little impact. The only guy who truly produced was first round pick Matt Elam, who managed to carve out a role and rack up 77 tackles with 1 interception and 2 fumble recoveries.
To be fair, it sometimes takes at least one full season (and sometimes two or three) for rookies to assimilate to pro football. The learning curve is often steep and the competition is measurably tougher. This is why we essentially expect nothing from rookie tight ends until year three, and wide receivers are known for making a “third year leap.”
And that appears to be the case here, as Arthur Brown, Kyle Juszczyk, and Ricky Wagner have been the main recipients of offseason hype this year. All are ticketed to play a major role in 2014. Juszczyk and Wagner already have the starting fullback and right tackle positions essentially locked up, and Brown is competing with 2014 first rounder C.J. Mosley for the starting inside linebacker job.
So which player in the group will have the biggest impact in 2014? Gary Kubiak recently said that Juszczyk will catch 40-50 passes. Wagner is starting at a critical position for a team looking to rejuvenate their running game in a big way. Brown should get plenty of snaps even if he doesn’t start. All three are poised to make an impact. Even John Simon has declared himself much improved over last year.
Our projection, however, is that Matt Elam will once again overshadow the rest of his class. We haven’t heard much about Elam lately, but in this case that’s a good thing. He was forced to play out of position last season because of incumbent starter James Ihedigbo. This year he is back to his natural position at strong safety following Ihedigbo’s departure, and the coaching staff has expressed nothing but confidence in his ability to hold down that spot.
With a solid pair of cornerbacks in the backfield, along with a combination of Darian Stewart or Terrence Brooks next to him at free safety, Elam has a strong supporting cast. He will be allowed to play close to the line of scrimmage this season, which provides the opportunity for Elam to show off his physicality in the run game. Expect him to rack up some turnovers in 2014, which is exactly what the Ravens need.
What Ravens sophomore do you think will have the greatest impact in 2014?