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Late For Work 5/23: Projected Ravens Starting Lineups


Projecting Ravens' Starting Lineups

Before the Ravens hit the field for their first organized team activity (OTA) to actually sort out the depth chart, why don't we have some fun and see how Baltimore stacks up on paper right now? is going team-by-team to break down the depth chart. Here’s what they have for the Ravens:

Baltimore Ravens Projected 2014 Starters
Offense Defense
   QB    Joe Flacco    DE    Haloti Ngata
   RB    Ray Rice/Bernard Pierce    NT    Brandon Williams
   WR1    Torrey Smith    DE    Chris Canty
   WR2    Steve Smith    OLB    Terrell Suggs
   TE1    Dennis Pitta    ILB    Daryl Smith
   TE2    Owen Daniels    ILB    C.J. Mosley
   LT    Eugene Monroe    OLB    Elvis Dumervil
   LG    Kelechi Osemele    CB1    Lardarius Webb
   C    Jeremy Zuttah    CB2    Jimmy Smith
   RG    Marshal Yanda    SS    Matt Elam
   RT    Rick Wagner    FS    Terrence Brooks

There are a lot of no-brainers on here, but some interesting takeaways too.

There are two tight ends projected instead of three wide receivers or a fullback. Pundits expect to see a lot of two tight-end formations with new Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak. Rick Wagner is the favorite at right tackle.

On defense, two rookies are projected starters with first-round inside linebacker C.J. Mosley and third-round safety Terrence Brooks. Second-year nose tackle Brandon Williams is stepping in for the departed Arthur Jones. That's a definite defensive youth movement.

Pro Football Focus (PFF) also put together a depth chart, and added categories for how effective that starter is expected to be, based largely on last year's performance.

They projected DeAngelo Tyson as a starter on the defensive line and see Chykie Brown as the third cornerback.

PFF ranks just five of the Ravens' 14 offensive starters (they include three WRs, two TEs and a FB) as above average or better. Quarterback Joe Flacco and Ray Rice fall into the "average" category, while right guard Marshal Yanda has the best grade at "high quality."

Just four of the 12 starters (they include three CBs) on defense are above average or better. Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil and cornerback Lardarius Webb have the only "high quality" rankings. Mosley and Brooks are rookies, so they don't have a grade.

The Ravens don't have a single "elite" player on their roster, according to PFF. I beg to differ. But, hey, these aren't my rankings.


ESPN Predicts Steelers To Win AFC North

While we're on the topic of predictions, ESPN (via Football Outsiders) has put out early projected AFC standings. Beware Ravens fans, you're not going to like this.

Football Outsiders projects the Ravens to go 8-8 and finish third in the AFC North for the second straight year. They say the Steelers will go 9-7 and win the division.

"Baltimore followed up its Super Bowl-winning season by plummeting to 30th in the Football Outsiders offensive ratings, and it would take a lot of rebound for the Ravens to have another winning season," Aaron Schatz wrote.

Good thing the Ravens made a lot of changes by bringing in a new system with Kubiak, shuffling up the offensive line and adding more pass catchers for Flacco.

The Steelers were given the edge over the Bengals because Pittsburgh has an easier schedule on paper.

With that in mind, here's former Steelers running back Jerome Bettis talking about the Baltimore-Pittsburgh rivalry. (Mobile users click "View In Browser" above)

Did Ravens Or Steelers Draft Better 1st-Round LB?

So maybe the Steelers are projected to win the division, but who drafted the better first-round linebacker?

The Steelers took Ohio State's Ryan Shazier at No. 15 overall. The Ravens drafted Mosley two picks later at No. 17.

Shazier was the only player in the FBS with 20 tackles for loss and 100 total tackles, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Mosley, the Dick Butkus Award winner for the nation's top linebacker, had over 100 tackles in back-to-back seasons and was Alabama's leading tackler in eight of 13 games last season.

Matt Williamson, NFL Insider: "I think Mosley is safer assuming he stays healthy, but Shazier is really dynamic. Super tough call and I see both fitting their respective schemes well and being fine picks, but I think Mosley is the slightly better player." 

Steve Muench, draft analyst: "Mosley is the better fit because of the scheme he played in at Alabama, but I have no doubt Shazier can excel in Steelers' scheme and I think both will make early impacts. Shazier has higher ceiling. At end of day, both are great picks in my opinion." 

Ray Lewis Held Out Of NCAA HOF

Ray Lewis is a sure-fire first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer, right?

So how could he not get into the 2014 College Football Hall of Fame class after being nominated?

Lewis was left off the list, which was released Thursday afternoon, according to The Baltimore Sun.

It could be because Lewis wasn't the most dominant college player. He was a better professional football player than he was a college football player.

The former University of Miami Hurricane was a consensus All-American and a runner-up for the Dick Butkus award, which is given to the nation's top linebacker. He was a two-time All-Big East Conference selection and ranks sixth all-time in school history with 388 career tackles.

Ravens Make List For Best Offseason

The Ravens didn't make a giant splash, opting to bring back several of their own players.

But they did add some difference makers on offense with wide receiver Steve Smith and tight end Owen Daniels. And they checked off their list items.

For that, they ranked No. 8 on's top-10 offseasons.

"Ozzie Newsome might not be a wizard, but if I were a 29-year-old assistant GM, or a GM in the Arena League, I'd be calling, emailing, LinkedIn-ing him to see if he could be a mentor," wrote Elliot Harrison.

"Baltimore consistently handles its offseasons well, with this year being no different. The Ravens generally don't overspend on guys, instead judiciously adding players who can help the team win."

Harrison gave props to Newsome for adding Smith, who will be a "fearless receiver in traffic" and will make "eight miles worth of difference in the postseason." He also applauded his retooling of the defense via the draft.

It wasn't all positive, however. In the "nothing is perfect" category, Harrison wrote this:

"The run game is still terrible, and while Ray Rice might be on track to potentially having an aggravated assault charge against him dismissed, his availability could still be in question," he said.

ESPN also graded all 32 teams' offseasons and gave the Ravens a B.

"The way things worked out, Baltimore used free agency to address its offense and the draft to restock its defense," wrote Mike Sando.

"The biggest question, independent of Ray Rice's off-field problems, is whether the team has done enough to revive its running game. The switch from Jim Caldwell to Gary Kubiak at offensive coordinator comes after Baltimore averaged a league-low 3.14 yards per rushing attempt in 2013. 

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