The Baltimore Ravens swindled the league in free agency last offseason by signing Daryl Smith, then used a second-round pick on Arthur Brown. Neither move stopped them from adding even more pop to their 3-4 defense in this year's draft, as they nabbed Alabama's C.J. Mosley with the No. 17 pick in Round 1.
Mosley was a force in Alabama's 3-4 defense and should be able to carve out a niche early at an inside LB spot within the Ravens' scheme. He and Brown may battle for playing time, given how stellar Smith was last season; the OLB spots belong to Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil for the time being.
This was a terrific value for the Ravens, and a pick that mimicked Pittsburgh's selection of Ryan Shazier just two spots earlier.
Strengths: Earned those lofty tackle numbers by showing an exceptional ability to find and chase the football. Moves well sideline to sideline, diagnosing plays quickly while avoiding blockers. Rarely misses a tackle; form is very solid there, with Mosley seldom lunging unless it’s a last-ditch effort. Can take on playcalling/audible responsibilities if the team drafting him so desires — displays great awareness and football intelligence.
Fluid enough to drop into coverage, particularly in a zone look or when tracking a RB out of the backfield. Should be able to move around in a defensive alignment if need be, making him a reliable three-down option. Very few mysteries in Mosley’s game as he heads to the next level.
Weaknesses: If Ravens fans are expecting a pass-rushing linebacker, they'll have to lower their exectation as Mosley failed to record even a half-sack last season and does not really have those attributes in his arsenal, save for an occasional blitz. Needs to add some bulk — or at least functional strength — if he’s going to play in the middle of an NFL defense. Right now, he has a hard time shedding blockers if he fails to find a free release toward the football.
Better against the run than against the pass; he’ll need to show the ability to cover more ground than he currently does in coverage. Mosley also should be better than he is at getting in front of passes, given his quickness. Size (6-foot-2, 234 pounds) probably will be an issue if he finds himself matched up against tight ends. It may be problematic on the whole, too, if Mosley continues to get banged up as he did at Alabama.
And on those injuries … they’re a clear potential headache. A team will draft Mosley to lock down a starting LB spot from Day 1 through Week 17. Is he physically capable of handling that responsibility?
Questions about Mosley's durability scared some teams off, but he was ranked No. 7 on the Audibles' SI64 list of prospects headed into the draft, so finding him down here at 17 is another score for Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome. The pick may mean that Brown's development has not happened as quickly as the Ravens expected. More likely, though, the reality is that Baltimore saw an opportunity to throw another log onto the fire at an already strong spot.
Mosley, if he stays healthy, could be an All-Pro in the very near future.
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