Ravens Rookie Class Gets Bad Marks For Participation


Heading into summer training camp last July we listened as John Harbaugh described the 2013 Draft Class as among the best that he had seen. Officials around team headquarters glowed when questioned about the draft class, proudly explaining how intelligent the group was and how each in their own way had been a leader of their respective collegiate teams.

The scouts boasted that they would have been happy selecting Arthur Brown in the first round but got him in the second. Brandon Williams was described as a third-round steal; fourth round pick John Simon reportedly had the entire war room doing backflips, allegedly surprised by his availability; and so on and so forth.

Yet despite the excitement, accolades and lofty expectations, the 2013 Draft Class did very little on the field this season. As a group they managed to take offensive or defensive snaps just 1,345 times – 1,034 of those snaps belonging to Matt Elam.

Comparatively speaking the other conference championship participants from the 2012 season had rookie classes that had snap counts of 2,401 (Falcons), 2,202 (Patriots) and 1,872 (49ers).

The Falcons fell out of the race early so it stands to reason that their rookies would see the field more. But both the Patriots and 49ers are still alive and their rookie snap counts exceeded the Ravens by 64% and 39% respectively.

So what happened?

Is there a disconnect between the scouts and the coaches?

Did Ozzie Newsome have a bad draft?

In 2011 rookies accounted for 1,622 snaps while in 2012, a draft without a first round pick and a season that ended with a Super Bowl Championship, the Ravens’ rookies racked up 2,315 snaps.

Given the pressures to win, was the coaching staff hesitant to play the inexperienced players in 2013 due to the team’s many other broken pieces?

Whatever the reason it is a problem and one that needs fixing.

Six picks not named Elam or Brown in 2013 (including Marc Anthony who was cut) combined for a total of 100 snaps. That’s not acceptable in the salary cap era when rosters need to be replenished by an influx of youthful talent, particularly a roster with heavyweight salaries like those of Messrs. Flacco, Rice, Yanda, Suggs, Ngata and Webb.

More of the same going forward will drive a wedge between scouts and coaches if the team fails in 2014. Finger pointing will commence when the scouts say the coaches are failing to teach and failing to provide an opportunity for the rookies to play.

Meanwhile the coaches will say the players aren’t good enough to earn the snaps.

And in the end we all lose.

Here’s to a better 2014, in more ways than one.

This entry was posted in Blog View, Featured, Lombardi's Way by Tony Lombardi. Bookmark the permalink.

About Tony Lombardi

Tony Lombardi
Tony is 24x7 Networks, LLC's founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan. A diehard Fab Four fan, Tony is a frustrated musician who thinks beating on the steering wheel is akin...more

22 Raves on “Ravens Rookie Class Gets Bad Marks For Participation

  1. Steve Webster on said:

    I think your trying to stir up drama where there really is none. Brown was drafted at what was considered a position of need until after training camp and McClain getting healthy. Williams and Simon were both drafted into deep positions. Williams was hurt most of the season and Simon got a couple of bonehead penalties during special team contributions. How many fifth round or later picks are expected to play their first year on a team that won the superbowl? There’s nothing wrong with developing guys and I doubt there is any finger pointing going on between coaches and scouts.

    • Tony LombardiTony Lombardi on said:

      Williams was not hurt most of the season. Rookies make boneheaded mistakes. If you have the confidence to draft them, have the confidence to play them. They’ve done it in years past. And if you think that there can’t be a divide between scouts and coaches if losing continues, consequently placing jobs at risk, you are naive sir.

      • Steve Webster on said:

        Williams was in a walking boot at the end of training camp and on the injured list for the entire month of sept. Which outside linebacker was supposed to sit so Simon could play? What source or authority do you have that says there is problems between the coaches and scouts? Again, your just trying to stir the pot.

        • Tony LombardiTony Lombardi on said:

          Maybe you should pay closer attention to what you read or think you read. What I said was:

          “Six picks not named Elam or Brown in 2013 (including Marc Anthony who was cut) combined for a total of 100 snaps. That’s not acceptable in the salary cap era when rosters need to be replenished by an influx of youthful talent, particularly a roster with heavyweight salaries like those of Messrs. Flacco, Rice, Yanda, Suggs, Ngata and Webb.

          More of the same going forward will drive a wedge between scouts and coaches. Finger pointing will commence as the scouts say the coaches are failing to teach and failing to provide an opportunity for the rookies to play.”

      • Ryan Jones on said:

        Draft classes can often be judged to quickly, particularly in their first year. Jimmy Smith is a perfect example, everyone labeled him a bust and now you hear talk that he’s on the verge of being one of the best corners in the league. Elam in my opinion had a really good year, free safety and corner is said to be one of the most difficult positons to adjust to on the pro level. Arthur Brown needs to gain some weight and stay healthy through training camp, being injured early on last year hurt his development. I think you’ll see alot of improvement from Brandon Williams this year, D line was a deep position for the Ravens this year. Anyone in the fourth round or later that can contribute on special teams their rookie year is a success in my mind. Lets go have a great draft this year. Go Ravens

  2. avromk on said:

    Thanks for this article. I think that some of the Ravens’ draftees needed a year in the weight room to be effective. Brown and Williams especially, and Simon, like Jarrett Johnson before him, needs a year or two to learn a new position, especially with Suggs and Dumerville getting most of the snaps at outside/rush linebacker. And, as Steve noted, he did poorly on special teams so there wasnt much left. It does bear watching to see if these players develope as hoped – the Ravens,. like everyone else, make mistakes in drafting but it takes a few years to be sure – Jah Reid, Ramon Harewood, Dan Cody, (and, it appears, Terrance Cody also) Etc. Overall, they do seem to take guys for potential and then they “coach them up” but you make a fair point. I think the coaches have input on the draft board so there may not be as great a risk of the divide as you posit. Good read

  3. D rock on said:

    Rookies for the most part don’t stand out often. Out of the 280 or so drafted how many can you name that really helped a team? Naming two on one team should count as a successful year of rookies especially on a roster like the Ravens. The Ravens develop guys over 2 or 3 years. Like the other guy said. Who is simon going to push out….. Williams had Ngata, Jones ahead of him. Arthur was the only slight disappointment but he has the tools to be a Bowman type linebacker. Elam and Marlons contributions were really good. I think you are nitpicking Tony. I think this will end up being a really great draft class

  4. JerryB on said:

    Good “post”, Tony, and agree on most of your observations. However, it’s difficult to quantify whether it’s talent and/or coaching that is the problem. For every Brown or Elam, there are guys like Kyle Juczyek (spelling?), who was drafted for his pass catching ability as a HB/TE and spent the entire season on special teams despite a crying need for his particular talents! Harbaugh is already on record saying that he’ll get more playing time NEXT year, but why wait?! And, then there’s Deonte’ Thompson, whose speed, crisp route running and great hands were sorely needed, yet managed only a few snaps ostensibly due to injuries. What we DON’T know is how injuries affect these decisions because Harbaugh rarely discusses them. And, when evaluating drafts, let’s not forget just how many former Ravens are starting elsewhere due to free agency and the salary cap. But, here’s a possible hint to the coaching/talent question……Juan Castillo was hired and immediately tried to get the OL to adapt to HIS system rather than his adapting to their talent. The results speak for themselves and point directly to…..COACHING!

  5. darren on said:

    this rookie class got cheated this year…..it wasnt out of malice or even negligence, it was the mere fact that harbaugh and the coaching staff didnt have ray lewis around……think about it…he was the guy for a decade and a half that mentored and taught these rookies…..on and off the field…..he would spend countless hours watching film at his house and also just accepting them and making them feel a part of……sometimes the biggest factors are the ones u cant even see

    • Roy from Roland Park on said:

      Ray and Ed were in their prime the yr before H, and only finished 5-11. Leadership is vastly over-rated. The real problem this year was a failure to trust the rookies, other than Elam

  6. seatraveller on said:

    Simon was a bad pick. We did not have a need at his position. Every now and then the staff goes overboard on these great workout, character guys and forgets they need to be able to play. Our process has been flawed for many years on 2nd round. We pick guys with high ceilings, but with a low probability of getting there. Melette looked good. Had we kept Bobby Rainey we wouldn’t have needed to add a back and a return guy early on. Therefore Melette wouldn’t have had to go on IR. Juice should have gotten more offensive play. I expected more from Williams but he was from a small school.

  7. Skip on said:

    I also think this article exaggerates a moderate sized problem.

    - L2012 was an unusual number of rookie snaps because we had an unusual number of injures. Still only three of them, Upshaw, Osemele, and Pierce, took almost all of those snaps with Gradkowski getting last game of the regular season snaps when we were resting Birk cause we didn’t need to win the game. Tyson, Streeter, Thompson, and Jackson barely played-which is actually normal for day 3 picks. Only Tyson looks like he might play much going forward.

    Contrast this year. Elam plays starter minutes like Upshaw did the year before. 2nd round pick Brown gets hurt in preseason and is never able to get past playing obvious passing downs. That is a minor miss because injuries happen-and he’s expected to play major minutes next year. 3rd round pick Williams was caught in a numbers game of a fairly deep DL. That wasn’t a surprise in the least. Basically the team went BPA in round 3 and you can;t expect the rookie to just leap over other established players int he depth chart in year 1. Next year, like Brown, he’ll get more minutes as probably Cody and Jones are gone.

    The other picks are again day 3 picks aka developmental prospects. Simon was another BPA at a position that we already had depth. Hopefully he gets time moving forward and you have to think he will if the team loses Suggs this winter.

    -Juszczyk was a special teams regular and looks to get integrated into the offense with Leach no doubt cut.

    - Wagner played extra OL man formations and may be the starting RT next year.

    - Lewis-Moore was hurt before the team drafted him knowing that he’d be IR’d this season and will be a DL rotation guy next year.

    - Jensen is in play for starting center minutes next year after being hurt the first day of preseason.

    - Mellete and Anthony-meh. When you come back with all of the 7th round picks that became major players on the team ever then we’ll talk about them being wasted picks but untilk you do the truth is 7th round picks are flyers. All of them.

    AS far as I can tell last year’s draft was all about investing in the future and had little to do with filling immediate holes. As such the jury is out on if the draft was successful. Rushing to judge after just one year is not very wise.

    • Tony LombardiTony Lombardi on said:

      No one is judging the class…at least I’m not. I’m comparing the way the class was used to peer teams and previous seasons.

  8. Jon Fazzone on said:

    Average Draft starting with the 1st Round…BWilliams Can Do Handstands All He Wants but He Cant Play…ABrown and JSimon Should B Fine…Juice will Also but The Rest R Borderline NFL Players…Must do a MUCH Better Job in This Draft…We Need TALENT and PLAYMAKERS…Go Ravens…Go Ozzie !!!

  9. SDOT on said:

    Tony thanks for the article, I don’t think we will ever have another rookie of the year until harbaugh gets some proven coaches and real teachers of the game that know how to maximize the skill set of the rookies we draft…Rex Ryan used to make all of our defensive rookies look like rookie of the year and future pro bowlers. (Landry, Webb, Suggs, J. McClain)… Even Cam made Figures, Torrey, Pierce, Oher, Yanda, Pitta/Dickson, Flacco look good. These coaches we had last year, Pees and Caldwell are to blame for our rookies not living up to expectations. They just don’t seem to know how to maximize our talent.

    • Jdubyathree on said:

      How did Cam make Oher or Torrey or any of those offensive players look good as you say? That would be position coaches. Until last year we had a simple system WR’s have a coach TE’s have a coach RB’s even at one time The QB’s but the O-Line had to get all exotic and have two coaches for the same positions. Who ever heard of a Run game coordinator until Castillo came here? And how is it that Caldwell is to blame for rookies not living up to expectations. I don’t think you know what an Offensive Coordinator’s job entails. The same applies for Pees. Again these are hires made by Harbaugh not for their talent or ability to teach but because of past friendships. The Ravens can do so much better with a another DC like Fanzio from SF who happened to be on the staff here while Billick was here. That’s one of Harbaugh’s problems. He’s got to be the Alpha Dog so he surrounds himself for the most part with coaches that do not threaten him position of authority. It was even alleged that his Father suggested that McKinnie be inserted back at LT for the playoff stretch. He had to do that because little Harbs makes things personal and the decisions he would make would not benefit the team as much as his power play, hence Pollard not being here and the eventual parting of the ways with McKinnie, but now they are still unsure of next year’s LT because Monroe does not pass block as well as he run blocks and they gave up 2 picks for a guy who hasn’t been given an extension.

  10. Phil fm Frostburg on said:

    Simon’s reps were doomed when Dumervil fell into our laps. Juice does well on ST but looks slow and squatty – doubtful he can be a productive h-back. The inability of the OL picks to contribute to an already terrible collection of backups was the worst part of last year’s draft failures. Although Elam was OK, how he compares to Cyprien of Jax over time will judge how good that pick was since most scouts rated Cyprien higher. I see potential in Williams but haven’t seen Brown flash anything yet. The team has to do a lot better with the 2014 draft.

  11. Shar on said:

    I’m kind of confused as to why you would compare our rookie snap counts to that of the Patriots when so many of their starters are injured forcing the rookies to play…

  12. Jdubyathree on said:

    http://football.about.com/od/nfldraftresultsbyyear/ this link from About.com Football gave ME insight into the thought process of the Ravens Brass since 08 Harbs’ first year, until now. It is amazing who was drafted and who was still on the board. Yes hindsight is 20/20 but to see some of the picks many who are not even still here begs to wonder, unless comp picks why not package them up to move up. The comment about Elam and Cyprien will be compared, I do agree because frankly I wished they would’ve picked Cyprien. And for all who think after 4th round picks should be on ST’s I know Saints aren’t glad that felt that way about Colston. One of the more glaring mistakes is allowing Rainey to go on Practice Squad and keep Trawick and roster spot open for Jackson who missed 8 total games for cheating. What are they going to do with Omar Brown and why was Christian Thompson 4th rd pick from last year cut? People clamor for playmakers, how do you know what they can do if they aren’t played or just kept on Special Teams. Someone mentioned about juice being slow, Watch the Special Teams when Jacoby broke one and who not only made crucial blocks but at times was running along side of him to ensure nobody would run him down. Or did you see the Bear game when he returned short kickoff? I said all year that on goal line situations or within the 5 they should’ve paired Leach and Juice in the backfield? Why was Leach bought back to play on Special Teams? did the 2 fumbles in the last preseason game doom Allen? The lack of depth at RB was a terrible idea. But Reid kept getting dressed every week. And for those who think that they should not do all they can to re-sign Art Jones really don’t know too much about Football. And that’s the mild version. BTW Kapron Lewis Moore is the trivia answer who did the Ravens draft with the pick they got for Anquan, and he didn’t play not one down. Are we going to stash him for a couple of years like McAdoo from UNC? Now if we want to continue to go down to Bama maybe get one of those QB’s McElroy or McCarron who have championship petigree and have a very high Football IQ. Finally if noone thinks Brown Thompson, Mellette, Doss and Smith does not give us finally the best possible corp of receivers we’ve ever had, than why did they draft some and pick up others after draft day? Yes I can get kinda long winded but that’s the way I am when I’m addressing others’ points, but click on that link and see who we drafted and who was still on the board since 08 and if we are getting the maximum out of the scouts and Ozzie and Co.

    • fats on said:

      Well if the ravens missed them then 31 other teams missed them. It impossible to hit on all draft pics and I can bet that site shows how every team missed in the draft. I tell you this, oz is doing something right to put together 5 playoff teams, 3 afccg and a Sb

  13. fatts on said:

    You don’t judge a rookie class until they hit their 3rd year. Look at AD, Bart Scott, kruger, Yanda, the Ravens been drafting on the back end of the draft for years now

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