The 2013 Ravens’ draft class will look to prove this year that Ozzie Newsome and his staff again struck gold. Defense was the theme early as the team took Matt Elam, Arthur Brown and Brandon Williams, establishing the fact that Newsome’s number one goal was getting the defense back to top-5 caliber.
The Ravens weren’t the only team in the division that had great drafts and grabbed solid players that are going to contribute immediately. The AFC North’s could be relatively even this year with every squad undergoing some change. There are going to be some rookies that give every team trouble and make coordinators lose some sleep.
I’ve broken down each draft class and will try to project the North’s top rookies and who the Ravens are going to have to keep in check during the fall.
Pittsburgh Steelers’ Le’Veon Bell: Some have scrutinized this pick as being a very average one, but Bell was the right choice in the second round for Pittsburgh. When you think of this guy, you have to think of the AFC North. His play at Michigan State was officially in the “bulldozing” category. He’s a big guy and has shown many times that arm-tackles will not do for opposing defenses. (Ed Reed is thankful nobody in the AFC South drafted Bell.)
The young back tore up the Big Ten emerging as the conference’s best, racking up close to 1,800 yards on the year. Going for over 30 carries in multiple games, this kid is going to be a concern for the middle of the defense. Dean Pees’ defense is going to have to contain this guy and clog every hole.
Cincinnati Bengals’ Tyler Eifert: There is a lot to like about this pick, and it starts with the athleticism. The Notre Dame alum isn’t a quick weapon, but he is everything a tight end should be—big, a great blocker, and strong. His 6’6” frame helps him catch any ball thrown in his direction, allowing him to win the one-on-one matchups needed to be an elite pass-catcher. He’s not going to put up ridiculous numbers, but he’s going to be clutch in big moments.
This pick makes Andy Dalton even better with another big, strong weapon. We might be seeing some big rookie-to-rookie battles this year with Arthur Brown, a great defender, going head-to-head against Eifert.
Cleveland Browns’ Leon McFadden: The biggest thing the Browns had to address this off-season was a corner, and they filled the need with McFadden. With the exception of Joe Haden, Cleveland’s cornerbacks were among the worst in the league. Facing teams with great one-two punches at receiver was a huge problem for the Browns in 2012, so this will be a big adjustment for Rob Chudzinski’s team.
CBSSports.com had bright things to say about the future starter:
McFadden finishes his career as one of the most decorated defensive players at San Diego State. He leaves the Aztecs with 47 career passes defended and 8 interceptions, starting 45 games over his career. The son of a nine-year MLB veteran, McFadden is a talented all-around athlete with the fluid skill-set and productive resume to make an impact at the next level.
McFadden might be a star and for a team like the Ravens whose receiving corps is anything but set, this pick won’t put a smile on the face of offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell. The team took advantage of the sub-par defensive backfield last year, but this year might be different.
Young stars could impact the division and make it the one to watch.
Time will tell who stands tallest.
References: CBS Sports, ESPN.com