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.