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Ravens rookie class has already distinguished itself

11/13/2014

The Baltimore Ravens' season is only a little over halfway complete, and this year's rookie class has already distinguished itself as the most immediately productive in coach John Harbaugh's seven seasons.

No other group of rookies have been on the field more than this year's one. Seven first-year players have logged at least 95 snaps this season. How special is that? The previous six rookie classes have never had more than four players contribute that much for an entire season, much less the first 10 games of a season like these current rookies.

Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley is the leading candidate for NFL defensive rookie of the year, and Timmy Jernigan is a big part of the defensive line rotation. Crockett Gillmore is the team's No. 2 tight end, safety Terrence Brooks is getting more playing time in passing situations and Lorenzo Taliaferro has been the backup running back for most of the year. Offensive tackle James Hurst and guard John Urschel formed the left side of the Ravens' line for two games.

The Ravens have made bigger splashes under Harbaugh. The first draft class under him brought in a franchise quarterback (Joe Flacco) and the eventual No. 2 rusher in team history (Ray Rice). The Ravens have found a handful of starters in certain years. Four starters on this year's team were drafted in 2013: safety Matt Elam, nose tackle Brandon Williams, fullback Kyle Juszczyk and offensive tackle Rick Wagner.

But no recent Ravens rookie group has been as deep as this year's one.

"This year probably has been one of our best years," coach John Harbaugh said. "It’s a good group of young guys. They‘re very motivated. They work really hard. They love football. I don’t see their heads in a lot of different places. I see them thinking about football every single day, and those are the kind of guys you want to bring in.”

Here's a look at this year's rookie class player by player:

ILB C.J. Mosley (first round): His 90 tackles rank fourth in the NFL and are 22 more than any other rookie in the NFL. Mosley has a great chance to become the Ravens' first NFL defensive rookie of the year since Terrell Suggs in 2003.

DT Timmy Jernigan (second round): His ability to disrupt goes beyond his 11 tackles and one sack. Jernigan is the second highest-rated rookie defensive lineman, according to Pro Football Focus.

CB Terrence Brooks (third round): It's been an up-and-down rookie season. Brooks' best play was his knockout hit of Titans tight end Delanie Walker last Sunday. His worst came last month when he gave up a 53-yard reception to Mohamed Sanu on third down, which led to Cincinnati's winning touchdown.

TE Crockett Gillmore (third round): He's the 13th-best run blocking tight end, according to Pro Football Focus. His six receptions rank fifth among rookie tight ends.

RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (fourth round): After losing a critical fumble in Pittsburgh, Taliaferro dropped behind Bernard Pierce on the depth chart last Sunday. His 257 yards rushing rank ninth among rookies and his four touchdowns are tied for third.

G John Urschel (fifth round): He started two games at left guard in October (both wins), moving ahead of Gino Gradkowski on the depth chart. Urschel also played one snap at center last Sunday when Jeremy Zuttah left briefly with an injury.

WR Michael Campanaro (seventh round): He was starting to find his niche as the team's slot receiver, recording a season-high 40 yards receiving at Cincinnati. But a hamstring injury has sidelined him the past two games.

OT James Hurst (undrafted): He became the first rookie to start at left tackle for the Ravens since Michael Oher in 2009. Hurst struggled in his four starts, committing four penalties and giving up three sacks. Still, this was a lot to ask of an undrafted rookie.

ILB Zachary Orr (undrafted): He's primarily a special teams player who has played in all but one game. Three penalties in four games led to him sitting one week.

NOTE: DE Brent Urban (fourth round) is on injured reserve after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament, and QB Keith Wenning (sixth round) is on the practice squad.