The Baltimore Ravens used back-to-back picks on Northeast Ohio natives in last weekend’s fourth round of the NFL Draft.
To quote the Ravens — pun intended — the defending Super Bowl champions picked guys they believe will fit right in.
The Ravens used the No. 129 pick in the draft on Ohio State defender and Youngstown Cardinal Mooney alum John Simon, then the very next pick on Harvard fullback Kyle Juszczyk, who grew up near Medina and attended Cloverleaf High School in Lodi.
Despite having deep family roots in the University of Michigan program, Ravens coach John Harbaugh joked that he had no problem selecting a Buckeye like Simon because Simon fits the Ravens mold.
“Midwest football,” Harbaugh said. “Youngstown guy. Just fly around, hit you in the face. Knock people down.
“Toughness, style, work ethic, attention to detail. With John you hear it all the time. He’s our kind of guy.”
Yep. Seems like a good fit.
“(The Ravens) are just a tough, hard-nosed team and I feel that’s how I play the game,” Simon said.
The Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2012 as a 4-3 defensive end, Simon will likely transition to 3-4 outside linebacker in the Ravens base defense. He’ll start out behind veterans Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, meaning he’ll likely to get to play with his hand on the ground in nickel and dime defensive packages.
“Wherever they want me to play,” Simon said.
A knee injury kept Simon out of the Michigan game last November, and he had shoulder surgery following the Senior Bowl. After being drafted he said he’s “100 percent” healthy now and “good to go.”
Nothing about Juszczyk’s journey from Medina County to Harvard to the NFL is typical, and he’s not a typical fullback. The Ravens view him as an athletic complement to powerful veteran fullback Vonta Leach, a special teams player who could play multiple positions.
Harbaugh and Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome joked that they’ll have a tougher time pronouncing Juszczyk’s name (it’s ooze-check) than getting him on the field.
“We’re excited about Juice from Harvard,” Harbaugh said. “I won’t even try to pronounce his name yet.”
Juszczyk said he took 12 pre-draft visits — he shined at the Senior Bowl but wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine — and came away thinking Baltimore might be where he eventually landed.
“I really wasn’t sure where I’d end up but I kind of had a good feeling after leaving Baltimore that it would be a good fit for me,” he said. “I got such a good impression from the coaches and Mr. Newsome that I was really kind of hoping I’d end up there.”
Juszczyk said he brings “a tough, blue-collar kind of gritty skill set. I like to think I bring physicality to the skill positions.”
Again, what the Ravens are looking for. Newsome said the Ravens wanted to start the draft by addressing the middle of their defense and aiming to replace departed future Hall of Famers Ray Lewis and Ed Reed; they did with safety Matt Elam and linebacker Arthur Brown. With their first two picks on Saturday, Newsome said the Ravens added “tough guys that really love the game.”
“We have a great understanding of what kind of football players John and his staff want in their locker room,” Newsome said.
Said Harbaugh: “Really, they’re our kind of guys.”