The Baltimore Ravens are in the midst of their first week of organized team activities (the first practice open to the media is Thursday), and I thought it would be a good time for a way-too-early projection of their 53-man roster. Of course, this will change over the next few months with offseason practices, training camp and preseason games.
Quarterbacks (3): Joe Flacco, Tyrod Taylor, Keith Wenning. Comment: The Ravens haven't gone with three quarterbacks since 2009 (Troy Smith and John Beck were the backups), and it seems like a waste to carry two backups when Flacco hasn't missed a start in his six-year NFL career. But, if the Ravens believe Wenning is going to be their top backup in 2015, they can't afford to put him on the practice squad. The Ravens lost Derek Anderson, a sixth-round pick like Wenning, to the Browns in 2005 when they tried to sneak him on the practice squad.
Running backs (4): Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce, Kyle Juszczyk, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Justin Forsett*. Comment: Rice, Pierce and Juszczyk are locks to make the team. Taliaferro is a near certainty as well, based on the fact that he's a fourth-round pick. Forsett makes the season-opening roster as the No. 3 back if Rice starts the season on the suspended list.
Wide receivers (5): Torrey Smith, Steve Smith, Marlon Brown, Jacoby Jones, Michael Campanaro. Comment: The biggest question here is whether the Ravens will carry five or six receivers. It will be a tough call if they go with five because Campanaro, Deonte Thompson, Aaron Mellette and LaQuan Williams will be battling for one spot. I went with Campanaro because of his added value as a returner behind Jacoby Jones.
Tight ends (3): Dennis Pitta, Owen Daniels, Crockett Gillmore. Comment: The Ravens' top three tight ends are guaranteed to make the team, barring injury. Phillip Supernaw, who was signed after a recent tryout, has a history with offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak in Houston and could have an outside shot to earn a spot because this is an offense that uses a lot of tight ends.
Offensive line (9): Eugene Monroe, Kelechi Osemele, Jeremy Zuttah, Marshal Yanda, Rick Wagner, Ryan Jensen, Gino Gradkowski, John Urschel, James Hurst. Comment: The Ravens know Monroe, Osemele, Zuttah and Yanda are four of their five starters on the line. Wagner, Jensen and Gradkowski should have spots on the team because of their upside. I see the Ravens going with nine linemen (one more than what they finished with last season), which leaves two open spots for Urschel, Hurst, Jah Reid, A.Q. Shipley and Will Rackley.
Defensive line (7): Haloti Ngata, Brandon Williams, Chris Canty, Timmy Jernigan, Brent Urban, DeAngelo Tyson, Kapron Lewis-Moore. Comment: The guaranteed spots go to Ngata, Canty, Williams, Jernigan and Urban because of their experience and draft status. Tyson impressed toward the end of last season, and Lewis-Moore has generated buzz this offseason. This would leave out Terrence Cody, a second-round pick in 2010.
Linebackers (9): Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley, Daryl Smith, Courtney Upshaw, Elvis Dumervil, Arthur Brown, John Simon, Pernell McPhee, Josh Bynes. Comment: The Ravens return every linebacker from last year's team. The only addition is Mosley, the No. 17 overall pick in this year's draft. Because the Ravens aren't expected to keep 10 linebackers, the big decision will come down to Bynes or Albert McClellan, who has made the team the past three seasons.
Cornerbacks (5): Jimmy Smith, Lardarius Webb, Chykie Brown, Asa Jackson, a veteran corner. Comment: Smith and Webb return as starters, and Brown and Jackson are expected to compete for the nickelback job. The Ravens are going to carry at least five cornerbacks, and four undrafted rookies will get the first crack at that open spot. My feeling is the Ravens will ultimately fill that fifth corner slot with some veteran who gets released by another team at the end of the preseason.
Safeties (5): Matt Elam, Terrence Brooks, Darian Stewart, Anthony Levine, Jeromy Miles. Comment: Elam, Brooks and Stewart are going to make the team. Levine is a valued special teams player. I'm going with Miles right now for the last spot based on his experience. But the Ravens may opt to go with Brynden Trawick or Omar Brown if they play as well as Miles because they're younger and cheaper.