Carroll County Times

Three second-year Ravens poised to take on bigger roles

First-round pick Matt Elam was the only member of the Baltimore Ravens' 2013 draft class to play any sort of substantial role as a rookie last season.

Elam started the final 15 games at free safety, but the other members of the draft class were either injured or limited to reserve roles.

However, here are three members of the draft class poised to take on bigger roles for the Ravens heading into this season (in alphabetical order):

Kyle Juszczyk, fullback (fourth-round pick)

Juszczyk played just a handful of snaps on offense last year, but Baltimore released starting fullback Vonta Leach earlier this offseason and plans to involve Juszczyk in its offense much more than it did last year.

"Juszczyk, I think that guy brought a set of skills that were really intriguing, and that was really disappointing to me last year," Baltimore owner Steve Bisciotti told the Times in March. "While our offense was struggling, I would have liked to have seen him. I would've liked to have seen if he could have brought something different to us, and it sounds like we're planning on taking advantage of that uniqueness of skill set that he brings to the table."

Juszczyk will probably be nothing more than a part-time player being that the Ravens have the amount of capable wide receivers and tight ends that they do, but Juszczyk does at least figure to have some sort of role.

He struggled some as a lead blocker during training camp last year, but he does have the versatility and uniqueness that Bisciotti talked about.

He had 52 catches as a senior at Harvard in 2012, and he saw time at multiple spots for Baltimore last summer, including tight end, H-back and wide receiver in addition to his natural fullback position.


Ricky Wagner, right tackle (fifth round)

If the season started today, Wagner would be the Ravens' starting right tackle.

He struggled during his most extensive action last season, allowing three sacks after replacing an injured Michael Oher during Baltimore's season-opening loss to the Denver Broncos, but the Ravens do believe he has what it takes to be a reliable starting right tackle in the NFL.

"Ricky Wagner is a guy we like a lot," Baltimore assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said during a recent speaking appearance, via Russell Street Report. "He really showed us a lot in the preseason. Again, Wagner is a guy who is better than I thought he was going to be quite honestly.

"If I would have known what he was going to be last year, I would have drafted him higher than the fifth round. He's a viable option. It just remains to be seen what he's going to go."

Wagner will compete with 2011 third-round pick Jah Reid and others for the right tackle job. If he struggles, the Ravens also have the option of moving left guard Kelechi Osemele out to right tackle, which he played as a rookie in 2012. But for now, Baltimore is optimistic regarding Wagner.

Brandon Williams, defensive lineman (third round)

Williams will be part of a group competing for playing time at the defensive tackle spot vacated by Arthur Jones. He can also play nose tackle.

Williams was slowed by a toe injury early last season and was then inactive for six of the final eight games, but Baltimore is depending on him to be more of a contributor this year with Jones gone.

Williams played at Division II Missouri Southern St., but he is big (6-1, 335), strong and athletic, and he showed flashes of his ability during training camp and the preseason last year.

He had 10 tackles and a sack in the first three preseason games.