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Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Could C.J. Mosley be top defensive rookie?

By Jamison Hensley

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.