NFL executives and draft experts routinely said that this year's rookie crop was the deepest class in recent memory.
That offseason prediction is looking to be right on the mark, especially in Baltimore.
Several members of the Ravens' rookie class have played key roles through the first 10 games of the season, and the group is already establishing itself as one of Ozzie Newsome's best.
"This year probably has been one of our best years," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "This class has contributed as much or more than any class in recent history here with the Ravens. It's a good group of young guys."
The talent starts at the top of the class with first-round pick C.J. Mosley.
The inside linebacker won a starting job almost as soon as he arrived in Baltimore, and became the first defensive player to immediately start as a rookie since Haloti Ngata in 2006.
He's only improved since then.
Mosley has arguably been the Ravens' best defensive player of the season, and he's a leading candidate in the Defensive Rookie of the Year race. He has played more defensive snaps than any other defender this season, and he leads the Ravens with 90 tackles – he ranks fourth in the league in that category – and he also has two interceptions, seven passes defensed and a forced fumble.
"C.J., he has all the talent, all the knowledge," Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees said.
Mosley is the headliner of the class, but he's certainly not the only one making an impact.
"I know everybody is kind of looking at C.J. as the prime candidate for that," Pees said. "But there are a bunch of guys that are really doing a great job."
The Ravens used their top three picks on defensive players this season, and all three of them are getting playing time.
Second-round defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan has come on strong in recent weeks after knee surgery earlier in the season, and he notched his first career sack Sunday. He's pushing for more playing time and the Ravens expect him to make a significant contribution in the final six games.
"His potential is endless," veteran outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "We definitely want him to help us win some football games coming down the stretch."
Third-round safety Terrence Brooks has also made his presence felt, especially with last week's crushing hit on tight end Delanie Walker that sparked the defense.
"The more comfortable you get with what you're doing, especially in the back end, the more aggressive you can play," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "He played very well [Sunday], and I thought the hit was just a great example of a young guy who is really paying attention to technique, paying attention to the rules, trying to do things the right way."
The other strength of this year's class is the depth throughout. Not only are the top picks producing, but the middle- and late- round picks are also involved.
Running back Lorenzo Taliaferro is second on the team with 257 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Tight end Crockett Gillmore has helped replace tight end Dennis Pitta, and he's established himself as a quality blocker in the run game. Wide receiver Michael Campanaro started to emerge before getting slowed down by a hamstring injury.
Offensive linemen John Urschel (fifth round) and James Hurst (undrafted) have also been forced into action because of injuries. Hurst started four games at left tackle when Eugene Monroe went down, and Urschel started in place of Kelechi Osemele for two games at left guard.
"I think it's unbelievable – not just for them, but I think for the team, for the group, because injuries are going to happen," Offensive Line Coach Juan Castillo said about the young linemen. "Those are just things that happen, and I think now everybody has confidence that John and James are going to do a good job."
The draft picks aren't the only players the Ravens will count on down the stretch, as they currently have three undrafted rookies on the roster. Hurst, cornerback Tramain Jacobs and linebacker Zach Orr are all on the 53-man squad, and the Ravens plan to use Jacobs and Orr in special teams roles.
The talent throughout the class and into the undrafted group gives the Ravens plenty of depth, and they plan to rely on all those players in the second part of the season.
"They're very motivated," Harbaugh said. "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."