The Ravens have made it a habit to reach beyond the typical player pool you see each Saturday.
Guys such as Asa Jackson (Cal Poly), Ryan Jensen (Colorado State-Pueblo), Brandon Williams (Missouri Southern State), Aaron Mellette (Elon) and Kyle Juszczyk (Harvard) have been taken by the organization when it may have seen like a bit of a surprise to the outside world.
But that's what makes an organization great — being able to look outside the box and evaluate talent all around, not just the guys that appear on television on Saturdays.
"Teams are doing better jobs, so we've tried to find value by more closely looking at small-school players," Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said at last week's pre-draft luncheon. "Our scouts do a great job of going out there and evaluating those guys. We use a lot of resources to go into those schools, getting to know the coaches, and watching the players."
Of course, the biggest worry is the competition these guys compete against. Obviously, it's not NFL caliber, whereas major conferences like the SEC and Pac-12 are beating up on each other every week.
But if you're talented, NFL teams will find you. And there's no shortage of talent anywhere, according to DeCosta.
"At small schools, sometimes they don't have the luxury of having a nice weight room, nutritional programs or support staff," DeCosta said. "We feel like sometimes these guys come into our facility, our building, with our coaches and our doctors and trainers, and get better quickly because they have the advantage of all these new things. It is a challenge. A lot of good small-school players have come here. We got Joe Flacco, Lardarius Webb [from small schools]. We had Cary Williams, who had been a good player with us in the past."
Small-school prospects to keep an eye on in this year's draft, in my opinion, would be CB Pierre Desir (Lindenwood), CB Walt Aikens (Liberty), DT Caraun Reid (Princeton), OG Dakota Dozier (Furman), OLB Howard Jones (Shepherd), OT Billy Turner (North Dakota State) and DE/TE Larry Webster (Bloomsburg). All of which seem like the kind of guys the Ravens covet — tough, gritty and determined. Will the Ravens take a chance on any? Who knows?
But it's almost a guarantee that the Ravens will take a chance on someone not many of us know about.