With limited roster space and time to evaluate undrafted rookies, we spotlight Kristian Welch from Iowa trying to make the Baltimore Ravens roster.
Last season we saw the Ravens continue what now seems to be an annual tradition, keeping an undrafted rookie on the team. Last season we saw Patrick Mekari and Otaro Alaka made. Other undrafted rookies that have made the team in previous years include Justin Tucker, Patrick Ricard, and the recently departed Michael Pierce. The Ravens have a history of finding gems in free agency after the draft. But with this season having a whole new set of problems it will be hard for undrafted guys to prove themselves. We will be taking a deep dive into some of these players fighting for roster spots (or practice squad spots) in this series, this time around the spotlight is on Iowa’s Kristian Welch.
Kristian Welch is a highly productive player out of Iowa. He will be joining rookie seventh-round pick Geno Stone on the Ravens roster as new Hawkeyes on the team and will be fighting for a roster spot on the defense, most likely through special teams at first. With a lot of turnover at Inside Linebacker this offseason, Welch will be given every opportunity to prove himself. Last season he was deployed all over the field collecting three sacks, three pass breakups, and nine tackles for loss, to go along with 87 tackles all while missing three games due to an injury. Welch also was a Captain for the Hawkeyes and a coach’s favorite.
Welch is a hard hitter and a very smart player. On the field, he plays with his instincts and off the field he was on Dean’s list. At 6’3 and 240 lbs, Welch has an intriguing mix of size, speed, and instincts. He often displayed his ability to take on blockers in the run game, as well as defend the pass in college. He had a number of big plays for the Hawkeye defense and gave the team big hits and reliable tackling. As a running back in high school, you can see that in how Welch plays sideline to sideline. If he was able to have a pro day before the combine, he very easily could’ve been drafted is teams liked the 40-yard dash he would have run. Now he must adapt.
Kristian Welch would be following a long line of former Ravens undrafted rookie linebackers. The list includes Bart Scott, Zach Orr, and current Ravens Chris Board and Otara Alaka to name a few. These guys have made the team through showing how they can contribute on special teams and playing hard-nosed Raven football. As a player from Iowa, we have seen how those players can translate to the NFL and well (see Marshal Yanda).
With two high picked rookies, as well as two former undrafted rookies who have made the team in the past as well as L.J. Fort on the roster; Welch will have an uphill battle. But, the Ravens typically carry four inside linebackers and they very easily could have a spot for him. If Welch comes to training camp in good shape and plays fast, physical football, and shows an ability to adapt to the NFL, he may just sneak onto the roster.
As with many of the undrafted rookies, he could very easily become a practice squad player this season. For Kristian Welch to make the 53-man roster, he must beat out at least Board and Alaka, but regardless of what happens Welch is a player that looks like a Baltimore Raven. With the practice squad holding a new value with the COVID-19 pandemic, he could see some time on the active roster this season. Keep an eye out for Welch as he may be a sneaky player to make this year’s roster and carry out the undrafted rookie tradition.