For the Baltimore Ravens, the importance of undrafted rookie free agents is as important as draft picks.
As the NFL Draft approaches, the sports media scene is flooded with hundreds and hundreds of mock drafts. Many NFL “draft experts” try to predict where the major college players will fall. Sometimes it can be as hard as predicting the weather.
In the 2017 draft, the Baltimore Ravens have one their highest pick in a decade at the #16 spot. They have a chance to change the dynamic of their team with just one player.
While their draft picks are important, the team is not quick to forget about the undrafted players as well. Once the 7 rounds are over, there are a number of players who are still waiting to get their chance in the NFL. This could be for a number of reasons: they might have suffered an injury, had disciplinary problems, or the teams did not see them as a priority with one of their picks.
Luckily for these players, they still have the opportunity to sign with NFL teams. Teams rush to sign undrafted free agent players that they have had on their radar. It may be a long shot for most of them, but it could pay off big time for a team.
Ravens Don’t Overlook Undrafted Talent
The Ravens have a reputation for drafting well, but their ability to bring in talented undrafted rookies is very underrated.
These players have come in and contributed on both sides of the ball, along with special teams. Some rookies have developed into long term starters and Pro Bowl selections. This success has been attributed to the hard work of the Ravens front office and their scouting staff. They do their research and scouting on later round prospects just as close as their first round targets. Because of this, the team is able to bring in talent that might have been overlooked by other teams.
In the case of the Ravens, some of the undrafted talent has come in and started over draft picks. They come in with a chip on their shoulder and have something to prove. That kind of drive is a major advantage to teams.
Undrafted Rookies Have Produced For Ravens
There have been a number of undrafted free agents that have contributed for the Ravens. The most recent players include linebacker Zachary Orr, kicker Justin Tucker, and long snapper Morgan Cox.
Coming into the 2014 draft, Orr was projected as a 7-8th round pick, but was never drafted. He quickly found his home with the Ravens shortly after. Even as an undrafted rookie out of North Texas, Orr was named a 2nd team All-Pro in 2016. He was a tackling machine for the Ravens defense and ranked in the top 10 in tackles during the 2016 season. Unfortunately, his career came to an abrupt end this off-season when he had to retire due to a serious neck injury.
Tucker, arguably the Ravens best player right now, signed with the team out of the University of Texas. Kickers do not usually get drafted, but Tucker’s play in the NFL would be a worth a high draft pick today. Keep in mind, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers used a 2nd round pick on kicker Roberto Aguayo in the 2016 draft. Tucker is currently the most accurate field goal kicker in NFL history and is a lock for the hall-of-fame if he continues to play like he does.
Many people forget about long snappers, but Morgan Cox has provided stability to the position for the Ravens since 2010. Having the ball reach the punter or extra point holder could be the difference between winning and losing a game, just ask Tony Romo. Cox was brought in for the 2010 season and won the starting job. He never looked back and his play has earned him Pro Bowl selections in the past 2 seasons.