COMMENTARY | When the Baltimore Ravens selected Florida safety Matt Elam in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, immediate uncertainty swirled around the team and its fan base. Would they address the inside linebacker situation in the early rounds?
Sure, Elam is a talented player who filled the void at strong safety for the Ravens, however with the departures of veterans Ray Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe, there was a glaring need for at least one new addition to the group of inside linebackers in Baltimore.
The Ravens didn't wait much longer.
After trading up six spots in the second round, the Ravens drafted Arthur Brown with the 56th overall pick. Brown, an outside linebacker from Kansas State, was a talented, polished prospect who managed to fall to the end of the second round despite a near flawless playing style.
Shifting to a 3-4 defense with the Ravens, Brown will now assume a role as a starting inside linebacker. Is being a starter as a rookie enough to deem Brown a good pick? Or should there be higher expectations?
In Baltimore, the expectations for Brown should be that he's perfectly capable of winning the Defensive Rookie of the Year award in 2013. Taking over for Lewis and Ellerbe - and attempting to fill Lewis' shoes in the middle of Baltimore's defense - the spotlight will be on Brown throughout the 2013 season.
The rangy linebacker has impressive instincts and plays more physical than his lean frame may suggest. In fact, his playing style is reminiscent of the 2012 Defensive Rookie of the Year, Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly.
Both Brown and Kuechly are dynamic, well-rounded players with few flaws. They both excel in run defense and intermediate pass coverage, and both have a mean streak when chasing down ball carriers.
Kuechly managed to finish the 2012 season with 164 tackles, which was the most in the NFL. Brown certainly can't be expected to post a usually unreachable total that Kuechly achieved, but he can be expected to accumulate at least 130 during his rookie campaign.
From day one, Brown will be one of the Ravens' most talented defensive players, which should lead to success for the rookie in 2013.
He is a player who has an innate feel for the entire field, which is something that can easily translate to success from college to the NFL. While there will be high expectations for Brown, he showed during his days at Kansas State that no task is too big for him.
Brown has a prime opportunity in 2013 to prove that he can be one of the faces of the Baltimore defense for the next decade. There is no reason why he can't have consistent success as a rookie, and he may be hoisting an award or two by season's end.
Kyle Casey is a Journalism student at Towson University in Baltimore, Md. He maintains his own football site, End Zone Report, and contributes to Russell Street Report, a Baltimore Ravens blog.
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