Baltimore Ravens: C.J. Mosley

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The biggest challenge for many rookies is adjusting to the speed of the NFL. Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, on the other hand, believes he can speed up his game in training camp.

That's why the Baltimore Ravens' first-round pick has circled Saturday on his schedule. It's the first day of full-contact practices in this year's camp.

[+] EnlargeRavens' C.J. Mosley
AP PhotoRavens first-round pick C.J. Mosley believes that he will be able to play faster in training camp.
“One thing that I always had going into wherever I played at was just me being fast to the ball and making plays in the passing game or running sideline-to-sideline making tackles," Mosley said. "One of the good things when I get in pads, I don’t have to be as slow as I’ve been just in shoulder pads, or just in our shells where you can’t really go as fast or fit up on blockers, things like that. So when we get pads on, it’ll kind of just be free football. You have to execute your plays; at the end of the day you have to be athletic and make your plays. So I feel like when we get in pads, I’ll be able to do that.”

Mosley is coming off an impressive offseason. He has shown good instincts, leaping ability and a strong grasp of the defense.

This is why he was running with the starters in the final practices of the offseason last month. Ravens coach John Harbaugh, though, isn't ready to hand over the starting job to Mosley just yet.

"He’s in a fight now for playing time, and he has a lot to learn," Harbaugh said. "He’s just beginning, so we’ll see where it goes. It’s going to be fun to see. [After] the first week we’ll know a lot more about these guys."

The Ravens already know about Mosley's pedigree. It led them to selecting him with the 17th overall pick in this year's draft.

Mosley won the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker in 2013 and was the SEC defensive player of the year. He finished as Alabama's leading tackler for a second consecutive season.

"He is a natural, man," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "He looks like he covers ground out there really well. It’ll be interesting, once we get the pads on, to see some of the running backs and [Mosley] and some of our other guys go toe to toe a little bit."

The inside linebacker spot beside Daryl Smith became open this offseason when Jameel McClain, a four-year starter, wasn't re-signed and Rolando McClain flopped in his workout with the Ravens. Mosley will have to hold off Arthur Brown, a second-round pick from a year ago, to become only the third rookie draft pick since 2007 (safety Matt Elam and linebacker Courtney Upshaw were the others) to start a majority of the games.

"The competition is going to start as soon as we get our pads on," Mosley said. "So, I’m just ready to get in pads and show these coaches that they picked me for a reason.”
ESPN.com polled 18 Baltimore media members for their top 20 players on the 2014 Baltimore Ravens roster. The countdown will cover the four weeks between the end of minicamp and the start of training camp. You can click here for an introduction on how the blog put together the rankings.

Let's start the countdown ...

No. 20: C.J. Mosley

Position: Inside linebacker

Total points: 34.

Highest ranking: No. 12. Lowest ranking: Not ranked.

What you need to know: Mosley was the 17th overall player taken in the 2014 draft, and he was the first inside linebacker drafted in the first round by the Ravens since Ray Lewis in 1996. He was promoted to first-team defense at last week's mandatory minicamp and is projected to be an every-down linebacker as a rookie. Mosley is an explosive tackler who plays sideline to sideline.

Where Mosley should be ranked: This is exactly where I had Mosley on my list. It's difficult to place a ranking on any newcomers to the Ravens, especially a rookie. But considering the Ravens had him ranked among the top 10 players in this draft, Mosley deserves a spot in the countdown.

File this away: Mosley was Alabama's leading tackler in eight of 13 games last season.

What the Ravens are saying about Mosley: "He's a good fit from the standpoint of the position he plays and how he plays the game. And he's a good fit for our personality as a team and our organization." -- coach John Harbaugh

Here is the panel of voters: Morgan Adsit (WBFF-TV), Clifton Brown (Comcast SportsNet Baltimore), Jerry Coleman (105.7 The Fan), Bruce Cunnningham (WBFF-TV), Steve Davis (105.7 The Fan), John Eisenberg (Baltimore Ravens website), Pete Gilbert (WBAL-TV), David Ginsburg (Associated Press), Brent Harris (Comcast SportsNet Baltimore), Brett Hollander (WBAL Radio), Luke Jones (WNST Radio), Joe Platania (the Press Box), Gerry Sandusky (WBAL-TV), Mark Viviano (WJZ-TV), Aaron Wilson (Baltimore Sun), Matt Zenitz (Carroll County Times), Jeff Zrebiec (Baltimore Sun) and Jamison Hensley (ESPN.com).
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens wrapped up their three-day minicamp Thursday and won't reconvene until the start of training camp in late July. Here are some thoughts and observations from the final day ...
  • How much progress is linebacker C.J. Mosley making? The Ravens' rookie first-round pick was running with the first team on Thursday. Mosley, the 17th overall pick, has been considered the favorite to start alongside Daryl Smith at inside linebacker. The Ravens have been praising Mosley's ability to pick up the system quickly. Arthur Brown was moved to second team, but he was still making plays on the field. It's a position of strength.
  • Running back Ray Rice is much lighter on his feet, the result of not carrying as much weight. There were a couple of times when he showed off elusiveness in between the tackles. It was a rare sight to see Rice fake out tacklers in the open field last year.
  • Justin Tucker is already in regular-season form. He hit a 64-yard field goal early in practice and then nailed a 57-yarder toward the end of it. This isn't surprising when you consider Tucker is 10-of-11 for his career beyond 50 yards, a spectacular 90.9 percent.
  • It was a tough minicamp for wide receiver Marlon Brown, who was turning heads last year at this time as an undrafted rookie. He dropped too many passes throughout the week and some were uncontested. Beyond Steve Smith and Torrey Smith, the most impressive wide receivers on Thursday were Jacoby Jones and undrafted rookie Jeremy Butler. The catch of the day was Torrey Smith pulling in a Joe Flacco pass with one hand in the end zone.
  • There was a lot of attention placed on offensive tackle James Hurst after he was signed as an undrafted rookie. But Hurst has struggled at times, especially against speed rushers. It was no match when Elvis Dumervil lined up against him.
  • The Ravens' secondary made some big plays. Still holding on to the starting job, safety Darian Stewart jumped in front of a Joe Flacco pass for an interception. Asa Jackson, who is competing for the No. 3 cornerback job, elevated across the middle to pick off Tyrod Taylor.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens opened another offseason practice to the media on Tuesday. Here are some observations I made during the two-hour workout:
  • Smith
    Wide receiver Steve Smith was the star of practice. It was impossible to cover him on slants over the middle, which should become a staple of the offense. When defenders were able to stick with Smith, like the time Asa Jackson was draped on him, the 35-year-old still made the catch in the end zone. Smith likes to spin the ball after every big catch in practice. On Tuesday, the ball was spinning a lot.
  • The one play this offseason where running back Ray Rice really showed off his speed was a pitch to the left. Rice not only beat everyone to the corner, but he didn't get touched until he was 10 yards down the field. It's difficult to evaluate the running game because hitting isn't allowed. What you can evaluate is Rice's ability to outrun everyone to the edge.
  • Unlike the first two practices open to the media, there were no interceptions made. The defense should have come up with one when cornerback Chykie Brown made a nice break on the ball. But the pass bounced off Brown's pads, a familiar sight the past couple of seasons. Brown went to the ground to do push-ups, which is the traditional punishment for Ravens defensive backs. Someone remarked that Brown gets the most on-field exercise of anybody on the team.
  • Ryan Jensen went back to working at guard on the second team. Jensen, who was a backup center and guard last season, had been practicing at right tackle behind Rick Wagner the previous couple of weeks. Offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said Jensen's move back to the interior was based on need. Guards Marshal Yanda (absent) and Jah Reid (calf) aren't at practice. With offensive tackle Eugene Monroe skipping the practice, undrafted rookie James Hurst lined up at left tackle with the first team.
  • The athletic ability of first-round pick C.J. Mosley stands out even in individual drills. All of the Ravens inside linebackers were asked to backpedal and then jump up to knock down the pass. Mosley was fluid moving backward and easily leapt higher than anyone in the group. It wasn't even close.
  • The pecking order in the backfield remains the same: Rice, Justin Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro. You sometimes have to do a double-take when watching Taliaferro. He's wearing No. 34, the number worn by Ricky Williams during his one season in Baltimore. Taliaferro, a big back as well, fills out that jersey just like Williams.
  • It's still unknown whether Tyrod Taylor can be a quality NFL quarterback. But he's definitely the Ravens' best player in a game of tag. He made three defenders miss badly when he decided to pull the ball down and scramble.
  • Last week I made the observation that the defense was still ahead of the offense. On Tuesday, you could see the gap begin to close. The offense is gaining a comfort level with the new scheme and is taking a positive step every week.

In case you missed them, here are my observations from Week 1 and Week 2 at the Ravens' offseason workouts. Remember to follow me on Twitter and on Facebook.
The Baltimore Ravens opened their second practice of the offseason on Wednesday and here is what caught my eye ...
  • Not surprisingly, the defense is way ahead of the offense. The defensive backs and linebackers were jumping routes so often in team drills that you had to wonder whether they knew what was coming. There are going to be growing pains for the offense as first-year coordinator Gary Kubiak installs his scheme. But the Ravens probably would like more success against a defense that was playing without four starters: linebacker Terrell Suggs, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, defensive end Chris Canty and inside linebacker Daryl Smith.
  • I mentioned in last week's observations that I saw backup Justin Forsett taking most of the first-team reps, and a Ravens official later contacted me to say that wasn't the case. There was no question about who was taking the snaps with the starting offense on Wednesday. Ray Rice was behind Joe Flacco on nearly every play. For the second straight time, Rice showed he could hit that extra gear after getting the ball, especially when catching a pass in the open field.
  • Wide receiver Steve Smith is going to be a favorite target for Joe Flacco because of his ability to run slants and the comeback route. Smith also let everyone know he can still get behind defenders. On what was Flacco's best throw of the day, Smith beat safety Matt Elam over the middle of the field and caught a bomb for a touchdown.
  • The Ravens are going to make first-round pick C.J. Mosley earn his spot in the starting lineup. Even with Daryl Smith skipping the voluntary practice, Mosley ran with the second team. Josh Bynes teamed inside with Arthur Brown on the first-team defense. It's still a safe bet that Mosley is going to be in the starting lineup when the season begins. He can be a difference-maker inside, and he has a comfort level with this defense.
  • Wide receiver Torrey Smith is catching everything thrown his way. He was blanketed by cornerback Jimmy Smith along the sideline and still found a way to come down with the ball by making an adjustment in mid-air. That was part of Torrey Smith's game that I didn't see much of last season.
  • Ryan Jensen continues to impress coaches in his move to offensive tackle. He got into a scuffle at one point, and the Ravens like that scrappiness. Rick Wagner is still considered the starting right tackle, but Jensen can make this an interesting battle during training camp. The Ravens' commitment to Wagner and Jensen decreases the chances of adding a veteran like Eric Winston.
  • The Ravens have some depth on the interior of the offensive line behind Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele. Who has the upper hand right now? Perhaps A.Q. Shipley. He stepped in at right guard with Yanda not showing for the voluntary practice. The other options are Gino Gradkowski and John Urschel. The Ravens could have more players in the mix, but Jensen is working at tackle and Jah Reid is dealing with a calf injury.
  • File this under the "don't do that again" category: Instead of throwing the ball away while running toward the sideline, Tyrod Taylor tossed the ball back over the middle of the field. This is what frustrates the Ravens. Taylor shows flashes but then makes a careless decision that could hurt the team.
  • Rookie quarterback Keith Wenning won't floor anyone with his arm strength. There's a noticeable difference when Flacco throws 15 yards downfield and when the sixth-round pick does it. Wenning, though, has a good touch on the intermediate throws. He also seemed comfortable when rolling out, which is a staple of the Kubiak offense.
  • Rookie tight end Crockett Gillmore is a work in progress as a pass-catcher. There were three instances where the pass bounced off his hands, although he did have a defender draped over him on one play. Gillmore, a third-round pick, has the size to immediately make an impact as an inline blocker.
  • Coach John Harbaugh is great about instilling a mindset with the sayings that he has plastered in the locker room and meeting rooms. This time, he was a walking billboard. Harbaugh's T-shirt read: "Ravens football is hustle. Constant hustle." The Ravens and Harbaugh pride themselves on having the most up-tempo practices in the NFL.
The Baltimore Ravens continued their rapid pace in signing draft picks when they reached an agreement with first-round pick C.J. Mosley on Tuesday.

This is the earliest the Ravens have ever signed a first-round pick. All previous 18 first-rounders were signed in July.

Mosley, an inside linebacker out of Alabama, becomes the 10th first-round pick of the 2014 draft class to strike a deal. The No. 17 overall pick of the draft, Mosley signed a four-year deal worth $8.878 million and includes a $4.711 million signing bonus.

That leaves only one unsigned Ravens draft pick: safety Terrence Brooks.

DRAFT PICKS SIGNED

ILB C.J. Mosley (first round): four years, $8.878 million contract, including $4.711 million signing bonus

DT Timmy Jernigan (second round): four-years, $4.382 million contract, including $1.507 million signing bonus

TE Crockett Gillmore (third round): four years, $2.906 million contract, including a $606,376 signing bonus

DT Brent Urban (fourth round): four-years, $2.52 million contract, including a $300,584 signing bonus

RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (fourth round): four years, $2.52 million contract, including $300,584 signing bonus

G-C John Urschel (fifth round): four years, $2.364 million, including a $144,560 signing bonus

QB Keith Wenning (sixth round): four years, $2.324 million, including a $104,072 signing bonus

WR Michael Campanaro (seventh round): four years, $2.287 million, including a $67,500 signing bonus

DRAFT PICKS UNSIGNED

FS Terrence Brooks (third round)
The Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers took an old-school approach in this year's draft, taking a highly rated linebacker in the first round.

The Steelers selected Ohio State's Ryan Shazier with the No. 15 overall pick. Shazier was the only player in the FBS with 20 tackles for loss and 100 total tackles (he had 22.5 TFL and 143 tackles), according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Two picks later, the Ravens went with Alabama's C.J. Mosley. He recorded over 100 tackles in back-to-back seasons and was Alabama's leading tackler in eight of 13 games last season.

So, which AFC North rival got the better linebacker? I let two of my ESPN colleagues decide.

Matt Williamson, NFL Insider: "I think Mosley is safer assuming he stays healthy, but Shazier is really dynamic. Super tough call and I see both fitting their respective schemes well and being fine picks, but I think Mosley is the slightly better player."

Steve Muench, draft analyst: "Mosley is the better fit because of the scheme he played in at Alabama, but I have no doubt Shazier can excel in Steelers' scheme and I think both will make early impacts. Shazier has higher ceiling. At end of day, both are great picks in my opinion."

The last time the Ravens and Steelers addressed the same position in the first round was 2000, when they both drafted wide receivers. The Steelers selected Plaxico Burress at No. 8, and the Ravens went with Travis Taylor at No. 10. Pittsburgh obviously got the better pass catcher that year.
I'm going to be taking this week off, but that doesn't mean the Baltimore Ravens team page will go dark.

There will be one or two posts a day throughout the week, so make sure you check back. If there is any news, my colleagues in the AFC North will provide reaction pieces. The biggest change is there will be no Ravens chat on Wednesday.

The Ravens won't have another minicamp until the end of the month, but they could wrap up signing their draft class before I return. There are only two picks who are unsigned (linebacker C.J. Mosley and safety Terrence Brooks).

See you next week.
It's that time again to click up our weekly Twitter mailbag and answer questions about the Baltimore Ravens ...

As the Baltimore Ravens kick off their rookie minicamp, more than half of their draft class is now under contract.

Running back Lorenzo Taliaferro, a fourth-round pick out of Coastal Carolina, became the latest Ravens pick to sign on Friday. The Ravens' remaining unsigned picks include their top three: linebacker C.J. Mosley, defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan and safety Terrence Brooks.

DRAFT PICKS SIGNED

TE Crockett Gillmore (third round): four years, $2.906 million contract, including a $606,376 signing bonus

RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (fourth round): four years, $2.52 million contract, including $300,584 signing bonus.

G-C John Urschel (fifth round): four years, $2.364 million, including a $144,560 signing bonus

QB Keith Wenning (sixth round): four years, $2.324 million, including a $104,072 signing bonus

WR Michael Campanaro (seventh round): four years, $2.287 million, including a $67,500 signing bonus

DRAFT PICKS UNSIGNED

ILB C.J. Mosley (first round)

DT Timmy Jernigan (second round)

FS Terrence Brooks (third round)

DT Brent Urban (fourth round)
ESPN's Jeffri Chadiha made a bold statement when explaining why it's a perfect marriage between inside linebacker C.J. Mosley and the Baltimore Ravens.

"If you're looking for an early leader for Defensive Rookie of the Year, this is the guy," Chadiha wrote.

Mosley
Mosley wasn't the top defensive player taken. That was Jadeveon Clowney, who went No. 1 overall to the Houston Texans.

Mosley wasn't even the first inside linebacker drafted. That was Ryan Shazier, who went two picks before Mosley at No. 15.

That being said, there are a lot of reasons that suggest Mosley can become the third Ravens player to win the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Most assume Clowney will run away with the award, given his pre-draft hype. Las Vegas even has him as a 2-to-1 favorite.

But consider this: there were 14 defensive players taken No. 1 overall since the inception of the defensive rookie of the year award in 1967, and none of them won it. That is none in 47 years. Plus, Clowney has no experience playing in a 3-4 defense, which is what the Texans run.

Let's look at the other candidates: Oakland Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack has to prove he can dominate the NFL like he did the inferior competition in the MAC, Cleveland's Justin Gilbert would be the first cornerback to win the award since Charles Woodson in 1998, and Shazier has to show he can hold up as an inside linebacker.

My early favorite would be St. Louis Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald. He's a disruptive force who won't have any pressure on him playing along the likes of Robert Quinn, Chris Long and Michael Brockers.

Outside of Donald, the safest bet would be Mosley, the No. 17 overall pick. He will be a every-down linebacker for the Ravens and has the advantage of knowing the system because of Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees' ties with Alabama coach Nick Saban. Even if there is any transition, Mosley can learn playing alongside veteran Daryl Smith. He also has Haloti Ngata playing in front of him and Terrell Suggs next to him.

"He's a good fit from the standpoint of the position he plays and how he plays the game," coach John Harbaugh said. "And he's a good fit for our personality as a team and our organization."

The Ravens have had an NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in the previous two decades. Outside linebacker Peter Boulware won the award in 1997, and outside Suggs followed him six years later. Mosley represents the Ravens' best chance in years of continuing this tradition.
Mel Kiper Jr. gave the Baltimore Ravens a B in his post-draft marks. Now, let's give a grade for each of the Ravens' nine draft picks, based on value, fit, immediate impact and overall projection:

FIRST ROUND

C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama: He was rated among the top 10 players in this year's draft by the Ravens, and their board has been more right than wrong over the years. Mosley has Pro Bowl potential and can anchor the Ravens' defense for years. The only drawback is that this wasn't a glaring need. Grade: A-minus.

SECOND ROUND

[+] EnlargeTerrence Brooks
AP Photo/G.M. AndrewsTerrence Brooks will compete with Darian Stewart for a starting safety job.
Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State: There's no question that he has first-round talent and is an impact player when he's on the field. The questions with Jernigan are his endurance and his fit in a 3-4 defense. At the very least, he'll be a major part of the defensive line rotation as a rookie. Grade: B.

THIRD ROUND

Terrence Brooks, FS, Florida State: At no other point in the draft did need meet value better for the Ravens. Brooks is the type of athletic, rangy free safety that the Ravens have been looking for all offseason. Sure, he doesn't have great hands. But no one would have argued if the Ravens picked Brooks a round earlier. Grade: A.

Crockett Gillmore, TE, Colorado State: This was the biggest reach in the draft for the Ravens. He was No. 165 on Todd McShay's prospect rankings, and the Ravens selected him No. 99 overall. Tight ends are a big part of Gary Kubiak's offense, and the Ravens needed a third one behind Dennis Pitta and Owen Daniels. It's just surprising that the Ravens went with a developmental tight end this early. Grade: C.

FOURTH ROUND

Brent Urban, DE, Virginia: His size and athleticism make him a perfect fit as an end in the Ravens' 3-4 defense. There's a little bit of a risk because he's raw and is coming off injury. Still, he has the burst and length to be a future starter. Grade: B-plus.

Lorenzo Taliaferro, RB, Coastal Carolina: A lot of one-cut runners like Taliaferro have had success in Kubiak's ground game. His size (230 pounds) will improve the Ravens in short-yardage and goal-line situations. But his small-school status and lack of burst make you wonder whether he'll ever be more than a role player. Grade: B-minus.

FIFTH ROUND

John Urschel, C-G, Penn State: Everyone will bring up his intelligence, and it's a fact that Urschel was the draft's smartest player. He's also a solid technician who plays with power. There is potential here, and center could end up being his best position. Grade: B-plus.

SIXTH ROUND

Keith Wenning, QB, Ball State: He's a developmental passer but you can see he has the physical tools to be a legitimate No. 2 quarterback in this league. His poise and toughness stand out, especially late in games. Wenning won't dazzle anyone with his throws deep downfield, and he's at his best working the underneath, timing routes. Grade: B.

SEVENTH ROUND

Michael Campanaro, WR, Wake Forest: The Ravens wanted him so much that they traded a sixth-round pick in next year's draft to get Campanaro in the seventh round this year. It was a surprise to see him last this long in the draft. He isn't the biggest or fastest receiver, but he is a savvy route runner who is exciting to watch after the catch. Durability is a concern. Grade: B-plus.
It's that time again for Mel Kiper Jr. to hand out his post-draft grades , and the Baltimore Ravens got their usually solid mark. Kiper gave the Ravens a "B," which is a fair grade considering the value of their nine picks and addressing needs.

"The Ravens put together another solid draft, with one notable question," Kiper wrote. "They got some really good players who will contribute immediately, and peppered in some high-upside picks that could make this draft look outstanding down the road. My question would be whether they got enough in the passing game."

In terms of value, the Ravens would get an "A-minus" because they were able to get two top-20 talents (linebacker C.J. Mosley and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan) in the first two rounds and a potential immediate starter (safety Terrence Brooks) in the third round. The Ravens also pointed out that defensive end Brent Urban, a fourth-round pick, was someone who was under consideration in the second round.

Where this draft fell short was filling immediate needs. The Ravens still have question marks at offensive tackle and cornerback. At this point, the Ravens are going with Rick Wagner at right tackle and either Chykie Brown or Asa Jackson at the No. 3 corner spot. No one has seen enough of them to say with any confidence that they will be able to handle those jobs.

The Ravens also could have addressed running back earlier because that could become a bigger need if Ray Rice is suspended and Bernard Pierce isn't at full strength. Coastal Carolina's Lorenzo Taliaferro was taken in the fourth round, but it could be a lot to ask of a small-school back to take a major role as a rookie. So, as far as pressing needs, the Ravens get a "B-minus."

This Ravens draft could look better a few years from now. It's not a stretch to say the Ravens could get three to five starters out of this draft. Mosley and Brooks should be starters as rookies, and Jernigan could be one by 2015. Urban and offensive lineman John Urschel, a fifth-round pick, have the chance to develop into starters in three or four years.

The Ravens didn't have the best draft in the AFC North, according to Kiper. The Pittsburgh Steelers received an "A-minus" after drafting linebacker Ryan Shazier, defensive end Stephon Tuitt and running back Dri Archer in the first three rounds.

"Even though the Steelers could have done more at cornerback, it was hard to pass on players they took where they did," Kiper wrote, "and it adds up to one of the best 2014 draft classes."

Here are the Ravens' previous grades from Kiper: A in 2010, B-plus in 2011, B in 2012 and A-minus last year.
NFC wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South


OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- A wrap-up of the Baltimore Ravens' draft. Click here for a full list of the Ravens' draftees.

[+] EnlargeC.J. Mosley
AP Photo/Dave MartinCan rookie linebacker C.J. Mosley become the heir apparent to Ray Lewis for the Ravens?
Best move: Sticking with their board. The Ravens' middle of their defense was significantly upgraded because the team took the best player available instead of addressing a more pressing need at offensive tackle and safety. The result: the Ravens landed a top-10 prospect (Alabama inside linebacker C.J. Mosley) at No. 17 overall and a first-round talent (Florida State defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan) in the middle of the second round. Mosley and Jernigan are two of the best in this draft in shedding blocks and stopping the run. The Ravens could've taken Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round and Virginia offensive tackle Morgan Moses in the second if they were trying to fill holes. But the Ravens haven't finished in the top 10 in defense since 2011, and Mosley and Jernigan are impact players who can get this defense back to its traditionally strong level.

Riskiest move: Not taking an offensive tackle. The Ravens showed a lot of faith in Rick Wagner when they didn't draft a tackle with any of their nine picks in this year's draft. Wagner, a fifth-round pick from a year ago, is now penciled in as the starting right tackle. Even though Michael Oher never lived up to expectations, this is a downgrade on the right side of the line. If Wagner struggles, the Ravens could start Ryan Jensen, a sixth-round pick from a year ago, at left guard and move Kelechi Osemele to right tackle. Another option is signing veteran free agent Eric Winston, who played six years under Gary Kubiak in Houston. While it's a risky move not to draft an offensive tackle, it's difficult to argue with their strategy. The top four tackles were gone before the Ravens were on the clock in the first round, and it would've been a reach to take Moses or North Dakota State's Billy Turner in the second round. An offensive tackle just failed to fall to them this year.

Most surprising move: Drafting a blocking tight end in the third round. This was the one head-scratcher of the Ravens' draft. Colorado State's Crockett Gilmore is a blocking tight end who's only played the position for three years. ESPN's Todd McShay rated him as the 165th prospect in this draft, and the Ravens selected him at No. 99. By the time the Ravens picked again, five running backs (Florida State's Devonta Freeman, Boston College's Andre Williams, Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey, Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas and Wisconsin's James White) and two other players previously linked to the Ravens (Clemson wide receiver Martavis Bryant and Utah cornerback Keith McGill) were gone. Tight ends play a major role in Kubiak's offense, and the Ravens underscored their importance by taking Gilmore on Day 2.

File it away: The future starting center of the Ravens may have been drafted in the fifth round. John Urschel started at right guard the past two years at Penn State, but he can play all three spots on the interior of the line. There's no question he's smart enough to handle the center position. Urschel won the William V. Campbell Trophy, also known as the academic Heisman, and he has a master's degree in math. The Ravens don't need a center right now after trading for Jeremy Zuttah, but no one should be surprised if Urschel finds his niche there in a few years.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Six of the Baltimore Ravens' last seven first-round picks started as rookies. Based on how the Ravens' coaches gushed about inside linebacker C.J. Mosley on Friday, it's safe to say this trend will continue.

The Ravens see Mosley on the field on running downs. They want him out there against the pass. And they envision him helping this defense get back to a top-10 one for the first time since 2011.

[+] EnlargeC.J. Mosley
Scott Donaldson/Icon SMIThe Ravens say that they believe linebacker C.J. Mosley will be a force against both the run and pass.
Mosley comes into a situation where many believed the starters were already set. The Ravens re-signed Daryl Smith to a four-year deal this offseason and they invested a second-round pick in Arthur Brown only 13 months ago.

"There will be competition," Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees said at Mosley's introductory news conference. "We're not going to hand it to him, and he knows that. Obviously, we think he can get on the field or you wouldn't draft him in the first round."

How will the Ravens' inside linebacker situation pan out? This year, Mosley will likely start alongside Smith and learn from the 32-year-old veteran. Then, whether it's during this season or next, the Ravens will make the change and go with the athletic tandem of Mosley and Brown.

The drafting of Mosley isn't a sign that the Ravens believe Brown is a bust. The Ravens see Mosley and Brown as their long-term duo inside, and the timetable of this happening all depends on Brown's development. With the way Smith's contract is structured, the Ravens are only married to him for two seasons.

Mosley is versatile enough that he can play weakside linebacker this year and take Smith's spot in the middle in 2015. Working in Mosley's favor to make an immediate impact is his high football intelligence and his familiarity with the Ravens' defense.

When Pees spoke with Mosley at his pro day a couple of months ago, he threw a couple of terms that the Ravens use on defense.

"He kind of smiled and laughed at them because they were the exact same terms that they use at Alabama," Pees said.

Pees' connection with Alabama coach Nick Saban dates back 24 years. He was Saban's defensive coordinator at Toledo in 1990 and ran Saban's defense at Michigan State from 1995 to 1997. Both Pees and Saban are known for running multiple defenses.

"Sometimes it's not a great fit when people come here and they've played in the same one front and one coverage all the time," Pees said. "This guy hasn't. He's had to control the front and make those calls and make those checks up front. That's one of the things that I really, really liked about the system that he came from."

It doesn't sound like the Ravens are going to easy Mosley into the defense as a part-time player. Last year, the Ravens would use Jameel McClain or Josh Bynes on running downs and sub in Brown on passing situations.

Pees scoffed at reports he read that described Mosley as a better defender against the run than the pass.

"I don't think we'd draft a guy who couldn't be on the field for three downs," he said. "This guy is a three-down linebacker, there's no question about it. I wouldn't take him off the field against any passing team."

This is the fifth straight year in which the Ravens' top pick has been a defensive player. The Ravens are hoping Mosley is the key piece to getting the defense back on track.

After nine straight years of ranking in the top 10, the Ravens' defense finished 17th in 2012 and 12th last season.

"We want to get back to the top on defense," Pees said, "and we think this is the guy right here who can lead us in that direction."

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider