The Ravens knew they had bigger needs, but when their phones stopped ringing and they prepared to make a selection in Thursday night’s first round of the NFL draft, they leaned on the same philosophy that has worked so well for them in the past.
They took the top player remaining on their draft board.
Eschewing bigger needs at offensive tackle and safety and opportunities to move back in the first round for additional picks, the Ravens used the 17th overall selection to nab Alabama’s C.J. Mosley, the top-ranked inside linebacker in the draft.
Mosley, who won two national championships in four years at Alabama, will immediately challenge for playing time alongside Daryl Smith and second-year player Arthur Brown.
“A nine-month process led us to this pick tonight,” Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. “I know we got better as a football team because of the way C.J. plays, but I really know we got better as an organization because of the person that he is.”
The Ravens have been looking to add depth at inside linebacker and Mosley, 21, is the type of fast and instinctive player that head coach John Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Dean Pees love.
Newsome said that the Ravens had gotten several inquiries about the 17th pick when the team was first on the clock, but those calls died down at about the six-minute mark. Newsome said that it would have taken a lot for them to trade out of that spot and that “bonanza” never came.
The Ravens had the option of choosing one of the top two safeties in the draft – Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville’s Calvin Pryor – but they had Mosley rated higher. The Dallas Cowboys used the previous pick at No.16 – secured by winning a coin flip over the Ravens – to take Notre Dame offensive tackle Zack Martin, another player the Ravens coveted. Once Martin went off the board, the choice was a relatively easy one.
“He’s fast, instinctive, tough, smart, talented, a playmaker,” Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said of Mosley. “People always ask about the best available player and what that means. He was the best available player on our board and he would have been the best available player on our board at 10. He’s a great football player.”
While Brown was a second-round round pick last year, Mosley is the first middle linebacker that the Ravens have taken in the first round since they selected Ray Lewis at No.26overall pick in 1996. Mosley’s instincts and intangibles have led to him drawing some comparisons to the former Ravens’ linebacker who played 17 seasons for the organization and was named to the Pro Bowl 13 times.
Mosley grew up idolizing Lewis and called an earlier meeting with Lewis “a bucket list” event.
“It’s a blessing,” Mosley said of being drafted by the Ravens, but, “I’m not trying to go in there and be the next [No.] 52. I’m going there to be C.J. Mosley.”
Harbaugh said that Mosley will compete for playing time with projected starters Smith and Brown. The only other middle linebackers on the Ravens’ roster before tonight were Josh Bynes and Albert McClellan, known more for their work on special teams.
Mosley becomes the seventh Alabama player that the Ravens have taken, tying Oklahoma for the most from any school. Newsome played at Alabama and has extensive ties to the Crimson Tide program. Ravens’ executives said that the selection came down to the fact that he was the top-rated player on the team’s board.
Finishing a standout college career in 2013, Mosley won the Butkus Award, given to the nation’s top linebacker, and was also was named the Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year. He also was a consensus All-American for the second straight year.
He finished the year with a team-leading 108 tackles, including nine for losses. In his college career which spanned 51 games, Mosley made 319 total tackles (23 for losses) to go along with 6.5 sacks, five interceptions, two forced fumbles and three defensive touchdowns.
Mosley, a Theodore, Ala. native, gets high marks across the board, touted for his character off the field and his intelligence and leadership on it. Not only does he possess elite athleticism – he runs a 4.68 40-yard dash - but he’s known for his preparation and film study. At 6-foot-2 and 234 pounds, he is also plenty big enough to take on and shed blockers, and he’s known as a sure-handed tackler.
The biggest questions on Mosley may be his durability. He dislocated his elbow and his hip during the 2011 season. He also underwent shoulder surgery following the 2012 campaign and was held out of most of the drills at the NFL scouting combine because of a right shoulder injury.
“I’m 100 percent healthy, no red flags,” Mosley said. “My past injuries won’t affect my play.”
His addition satisfies one need but the Ravens are still looking to add a right tackle and a free safety, two positions where they lack established starters. They also want to add depth at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, cornerback and along the defensive line.
They have seven more picks to accomplish those things, including one in the second (48th overall), two in the third (79 and 99), two in the fourth (134 and 138), one in the fifth (175) and one in the sixth (194).
Rounds two and three of the draft will take place on Friday, starting at 7 p.m. Rounds four through seven will begin at noon on Saturday.