Ravens' draft class earning high grades

In the case of the Baltimore Ravens, it doesn't take much introspection to recognize the immediate dividends being paid by this year's group of draft picks and undrafted free agents.

Although the Ravens have an experienced roster featuring 10 veterans with at least 100 games played, they also have 11 rookies on their team to rank third in the NFL behind only the Green Bay Packers (14) and Jacksonville Jaguars (13).
"It's exciting," Ravens director of college scouting Eric DeCosta said. "If these guys continue to improve, learn from the veterans and have a great offseason, this could go down as one of our best drafts. We should be in good shape for the future."
DT HALOTI NGATA
Size: 6-foot-4, 340 pounds.
College: Oregon
Drafted: 1st round (12th overall)
Thumbnail sketch: Bulky, stout lineman has started 10 games and contributed heavily to the NFL's third-ranked run defense as a fairly disruptive, double-team drawing interior force. Still needs to improve technique and stamina, but has registered 30 tackles and a 60-yard interception return while batting down three passes with two leading to interceptions.
DeCosta comment: "He's been everything we've expected. He's a big, strong, athletic guy. He's tough to move. Teams have to double-team him. He's still fighting through some technique things. What he did at Oregon is different from what we're asking him to do. In terms of shedding blocks, he's getting better every single week. We've been very impressed with his motor. He's made some key plays in critical situations. We're very encouraged. We have one of the best run defenses in the NFL. We're improved from last year. We think he's a big reason why we are.
"We'd like to see him get more push against the pass where he's actually pressing the pocket and getting in the quarterback's face. We've seen him do it, but it happens so fast in the scheme of the game that sometimes he's content. He's a good player. We expect him to be a great player. He's got all the talent in the world. His future is endless. We expect him to be as twice as good next year as he is now."
OL CHRIS CHESTER
Size: 6-foot-3, 305 pounds
College: Oklahoma
Drafted: 2nd round (56th overall)
Thumbnail sketch: Athletic converted tight end started his first NFL game in last Sunday's 24-10 win over the Atlanta Falcons at right guard. Versatile enough to play center and guard and unusually fast (4.8 speed), but needs to add size and strength in the weight room.
DeCosta comment: "In reality, this is really only his second year playing offensive line. To come into the NFL with that lack of experience is tough to do, but we've seen exciting growth with him. His quickness, his athletic ability, his play in space, his ability in pass protection, all of those things are exciting for us and point to a very bright future.
"He's been everything we expected when we drafted him and more. He's a great kid. He studies. He learns. He gives us excellent flexibility at center and guard. Hopefully, he'll put on a few pounds, just a few. He'll compete at both guards and the center spot next year. It's hard to find guys with that athletic ability. He's a rare guy."
CB DAVID PITTMAN
Size: 5-foot-11, 182 pounds
College: Northwestern State (La.)
Drafted: 3rd round (87th overall)
Thumbnail sketch: Inactive for every game so far after a training camp marred by a nagging hamstring injury, Pittman was initially slated to be the team's nickel back. However, he hasn't lived up to those expectations and will need to make a much stronger impression next season.
DeCosta comment: "Of all the guys we added at the defensive back position, I think David probably has the most talent. The hamstring injury set him back. I also think there's an immaturity to David because he's a small-school player coming from a Division I-AA program. It is not the same transition for a kid leaving LSU or Wyoming or Georgia Tech. You'd like to see, at times, better practice effort, better work ethic and more maturity and studying the playbook.
"Where I've been very encouraged, is that David is making plays every day now at practice. We see the skills that convinced us to draft him: the foot quickness, the body control, the athletic ability, the mirror skills. Hopefully, that maturation will take place in the offseason and he'll come in ready to play."
WR DEMETRIUS WILLIAMS
Size: 6-foot-2, 197 pounds
College: Oregon
Drafted: 4th round (111th overall)
Thumbnail sketch: Described as the steal of the Ravens' draft, this fundamentally sound and deceptively fast third wide receiver has established himself as a versatile threat in limited action. He has caught 12 passes for 184 yards and ranks first on the team with 15.3 yards per reception, including four catches for 75 yards against the Tennessee Titans.
DeCosta comment: "You guys have seen the talent. He's a big, fast guy who can catch the ball and run with it. He was really an exciting guy for us to pick because we knew we were getting a steal. He's tough to cover. He has a chip on his shoulder and wants to prove all the skeptics wrong. When he's had a chance to make a play, he's made a play every time. He has a calm passion about him. He's highly competitive."
S DAWAN LANDRY
Size: 6-foot, 220 pounds
College: Georgia Tech
Drafted: 5th round (146th overall)
Thumbnail sketch: An instant starter who replaced departed veteran Will Demps, Landry has intercepted three passes with one returned for a touchdown in eight starts. He has recorded 56 tackles with one sack and eight pass deflections.
DeCosta comment: "I think it was a good piece of scouting from the area scouts, Joe Hortiz and Lional Vital. We looked at Dawan and saw a guy who was bigger and faster than Will Demps and just as smart. He's big, he's physical, he's tough and he's got good instincts.
"He's not a blazer, he's not the most athletic safety in the league, but he does so many things well that he's able to overcome those liabilities. He's been a blessing. He's a great kid, quiet and humble. The coaches have done an amazing job of utilizing his strengths."
TE QUINN SYPNIEWSKI
Size: 6-foot-6, 270 pounds
College: Colorado
Drafted: 5th round (166th overall)
Thumbnail sketch: Large blocking tight end has started twice. Hasn't caught a pass, but has impressed the coaching staff with his strength at the point of attack. "He can catch the ball, too, as we saw this preseason. To get a guy his size with his athletic ability later in the draft, I think that was a good move. He was one of Ozzie Newsome's favorite players in the draft, and I think he's going to be pretty good for us."
P SAM KOCH
Size: 6-foot-1, 230 pounds
College: Nebraska
Drafted: 6th round (203rd overall)
Thumbnail sketch: Koch is averaging 43.0 yards per punt, 37.1 net and has downed 18 inside opponents' 20-yard line. He doubles as a hard-nosed tackler.
DeCosta comment: "He's got a good leg and he's a tough kid. He's smart and has a lot of poise. Frank Gansz and Milt Hendrickson did an awesome job scouting him and they deserve all the credit for that.
"He's been outstanding this year inside the 20, pinning people down there. Dave Zastudil was a great punter, but he wasn't as consistent in that regard. To be able to pin your opponent down there consistently is huge."
CB DERRICK MARTIN
Size: 5-foot-10, 202 pounds
College: Wyoming
Drafted: 6th round (208th overall)
Thumbnail sketch: Martin has played in three games, primarily contributing on special teams with three tackles.
DeCosta comment: "He's explosive, he's fast and he's tough. He's a bulldog. He's very good on special teams. He's another guy who's probably not as mature as some of the other guys we drafted, but the coaches really like him.
"He's just learning now how to play, how to study, how to practice. The ability is there and if he continues to improve, I think he'll be quite a steal for us."
CB RONNIE PRUDE
Size: 5-foot-11, 178 pounds
College: LSU
Thumbnail sketch: Undrafted rookie free agent gets the job done with quickness and intelligence as he lacks ideal acceleration and speed. Has played in all 10 games and intercepted two passes with one returned for a touchdown.
DeCosta comment: "He's very instinctive. We think he's got a pretty good future for us. If he has a good offseason, he'll be another guy who competes to play next year. He has to continue to improve because he's not a fast guy. He has to learn to adapt his game because he's not a 4.4 guy. With his instincts, ball skills and savvy, he can be a guy that can be a third corner for you and play for a lot of years."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.

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