It's not all that often that a fourth-round pick has a legitimate shot at a major role in Year 1, but that's where Ravens rookie cornerback Tavon Young finds himself.
Baltimore's first selection among an acclaimed fourth-round class is in position to win the team's primary nickel cornerback job. It's a prime position considering that teams often use three wide receivers on a given play.
Young will mainly compete with returning veteran Kyle Arrington for the job. Safety Lardarius Webb could also move down to nickel in three-wide formations.
"I feel like I'm ready," Young said. "They always talk about size or, 'You're a young guy.' I feel like if you can play ball, you can play ball. If you can compete, you can take somebody's spot or you can rotate in. It's just dependent on what you do."
Young is a 22-year-old prospect who stands in at just 5-foot-9, 185 pounds. That's not a whole lot smaller than Arrington (5-10, 190).
While his size isn't his advantage, Young plays bigger than his measurements and more than makes up for it with his quick feet and toughness.
"Tavon has looked really good," Head Coach John Harbaugh said Saturday. "He's been quick; he's played the ball really well. His speed has shown up – changing direction. He's had a good start, and I'm really impressed with what we've seen so far."
Young mostly played outside (boundary) cornerback at Temple, but he also did move into nickel "a little bit." It depended on what teams and what receivers the Owls played against, he said.
Nickel corner is a different animal than playing on the outside. It requires more communication with the front seven, more route combinations to plan for and traffic to avoid.
Young was asked if he feels like he fits the Ravens' scheme.
"It's just physical, tough, and they play hard," he said. "That's what we did at Temple, and I feel like it's the same thing and I fit right in."
Young started 12 of 14 games last season and notched 29 tackles, five tackles for loss and seven passes defensed. His impact was felt by more than his stats.
During his junior year, Young was awarded with the No. 1 jersey number to wear on opening day. It's an honor given to one of the toughest players on the team. He responded with his best game, notching two interceptions and earned American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors.
"I was supposed to wear it for just one game, but the first game I had two interceptions, so they just let me keep it for the rest of the season," Young said.