Kiper gives Ravens’ draft class his highest grade (plus Newsome comments)

ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. released his draft grades today, and the Ravens were affixed atop the list as one of three teams awarded an A-minus for their draft haul.

As a quick refresher, Baltimore selected Florida safety Matt Elam with its first-round pick, 32nd overall. The Ravens followed with Kansas State linebacker Arthur Jones in the second round and Division II defensive tackle Brandon Williams in the third.

Here’s what Kiper had to say about the Ravens’ draft:

The Ravens needed to come out of this draft with an inside linebacker and a safety, and with their first two picks, they got two really good players at those positions. Matt Elam has played high-level football at Florida, can move around (particularly up to the line of scrimmage) and make hits. He plays with fearlessness, can make plays in coverage with his good instincts and long arms and slotted in next to Michael Huff at strong safety, provides immediate impact. Baltimore used its pile of picks to move up and take Arthur Brown, a player the Ravens really liked. He’s a steal at No. 56 overall and takes over the void left by Ray Lewis. Brandon Williams gives them a rotation player at nose tackle and gives them depth behind Terrence Cody. Kyle Juszczyk is the best fullback in the draft, and makes plenty of sense in the fourth round. Ricky Wagner is an interesting pick because if you asked me a year ago I’d have told you he probably lands in Round 2 this year. He just didn’t play to that level this season, but you have to wonder if he can get back to that point. I see his future at right tackle, or even guard. Tackle was a need, and we’ll see if he helps there. I think it’s a good bet on upside. John Simon is an interesting player, because it’s hard to say what position he’ll play. For now he provides depth at linebacker and should be a good special-teamer. The Ravens had another excellent draft because they needed starters at some key spots and pulled it off. That’s not easy to do when you’re slotted in at No. 32.

Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome was also pleased with his 2013 class. Newsome expressed that it helps that his front office team of assistant general manager Eric DeCosta, director of college scouting Joe Hortiz and coach John Harbaugh has been together such a long time.

“We just went through our sixth draft together. So I think the process is a little smoother,” Newsome told reporters. “I think we all understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses when it comes to putting the board together. But I think the biggest thing is we have a great understanding of the type of football players that John wants in his locker room, that he and his coaching staff want to work with.

“And I think when we come together, the four of us, with all those things in mind, that we’re able to put together a draft class just as we have done over the past three days that we feel very good about. We feel very, very good about what we’ve added to our football team for the 2013 season. We talked about getting stronger up the middle; we did that early with our first three picks.

“Then (on Saturday), we were able to come back and pick up some other really, really tough guys that really love the game in (John) Simon and (Kyle) Juszczyk, added those guys, and then we went back and we always like to get some offensive linemen. We feel like with the coaching staff that we have there, they do a very good job of developing those guys. This year we took a defensive lineman (Kapron Lewis-Moore) that tore his knee up in the national championship game, so he’s a guy that we’re going to bring along and rehab, and if we get something out of him in 2013 it’s a plus. But more or less, we’re just looking at him to the future.

“So from my assessment, it’s a very, very good class. You throw in the receiver (Aaron Mellette) that we got, who was highly, highly productive ... And then there’s one thing that we never have enough of, and that’s corners, so to finish up with Marc Anthony as a corner. In our mind, it’s been a very productive three days. We like all of the guys that we have brought into this class, and we’re just looking forward to now getting them here and letting John and his staff work with them.”