Sleeper watch: Ravens undrafted free agent signee AJ Pataiali'i

Former Utah State defensive tackle AJ Pataiali'i could be a sleeper to watch this preseason. - Chris Nicoll

One of the first undrafted free agents to sign with the Ravens following the draft was Utah State defensive tackle AJ Pataiali'i.

A true sleeper in the Ravens' haul of undrafted free agents could very well be Utah State defensive tackle AJ Pataiali'i, who agreed to terms with the organization shortly after the seventh round of the NFL draft was completed.

Pataiali'i was a priority free agent, garnering interest from multiple teams shortly after. According to a league source, Pataiali'i had at least three suitors vying for him to join their offseason rosters. The Ravens offered a nice deal and and now he's a part of the organization, ready for this weekend's rookie minicamp.

Here's the word on Pataiali'i, from the same source:

Pataiali'i is a zero- and one-technique lineman first, and that's where the Ravens want to see him work at. He's already a big body at 6-3, 311 pounds, though he could probably stand to gain some weight if he's going to primarily play the nose tackle position.

That said, he's athletic enough to play the three-technique and five-technique spots in a 3-4 defense. In fact, two teams were interested in Pataiai'i as a three-technique lineman. He runs a 5.0 40-yard dash, has a 31.5-inch vertical jump and can reportedly dunk a basketball behind his head, all extremely athletic traits for someone his size.

(Here's a clip highlighting his athleticism, as Pataiali'i showcases a 46-inch box jump at the end of this video:)

Out of high school, Pataiali'i had the option of playing college basketball at Colorado State, but grades were an issue. He wound up at Snow College, a junior college in Ephraim, Utah, which is a place that has sent a lot of D-1 football prospects on after a couple of seasons. Two years after heading to Snow College, Utah State came calling and offered Pataiali'i a spot.

Though there's a lot to like about Pataiali'i, the defensive tackle position group does appear loaded right now. The Ravens just drafted Timmy Jernigan, who can either play the nose or three-technique, and Brent Urban, who seems suited for the five-technique. 2013 third-round pick Brandon Williams is also a nose-tackle and three-technique lineman.

Then there's Haloti Ngata and Terrence Cody at the nose tackle spot, making it a crowded unit right now. But both of those players' long-term futures are uncertain at this time, which could be one reason why the Ravens are looking to stock up at the position right now.

While there's an outside shot he makes the 53-man roster, the practice squad is a more likely a destination for Pataiali'i following training camp.

And that would be just fine. No one on the current Ravens roster has practice squad eligibility at the nose tackle spot, making it a chance for him to earn practice reps that way. While Pataiali'i may not be someone to immediately look for in 2014, he could be a sleeper that gradually comes along in his NFL development, with the potential down the road to earn a spot with this team.


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