Every year, it seems, there is a player or players that are much better than people expected for the Baltimore Ravens come training camp. Last season it was Pernel McPhee and LaQuan Williams. Well maybe there was a few people that expect things would turn out the way they have for these youngsters. That would be the people in the Ravens front office that selected them and those in the scouting department that found them.
There will always be players like Sergio Kindle that were sure fire play makers that some way or another fall flat on their face in the pros So it's guys like McPhee that was drafted in the fifth round that make up for those types of losses that every team faces.It's not every team that drafts like the Ravens though. This is one off the reasons the Ravens have stayed competitive for so long. especially considering they barely ever make a huge splash in the free agent market that messed up their salary cap for years.
There are some teams that have to do that. Sometimes it is they just flat out don't draft well and sometimes it's because they don't have any draft picks because they have traded them all away over the previous years. You can't be like the Yankees in the NFL. You can't just buy a team. You only have so much money to play with and getting young players that can play well at the NFL level. Guys that can play under their rookie contracts for years are so valuable because then you have the freedom to choose who you spend your money on and you're not at the whim of who may be a free agent that year. Just because they may have been a great player for another team doesn't mean they will play at the same level for their new team. Especially right away, when the teams that signed them to these huge contracts need them to play at their best.
This, again, is why the Ravens are a good team from top to bottom. They have the right veterans that have built in roles on the team and the young talent coming in is NFL ready and they have an actual team to be a part of. Not just some mismatch of guys trying to call themselves a team. So players that can play like McPhee, Williams and Lardarius Webb get to show their best and grow into their positions because those around them expect nothing less. Greatness is the norm.
So, any way, back to the subject at hand. The Ravens have several young talented players in camp this season. Some are projected to make the starting line up like second round pick, Courtney Upshaw. Upshaw came from a dominant NFL style defense in college and he thrived as both a run stuffer and a pass rusher. There are those who say his pass rushing abilities won't stack up well but it's all just speculation. He has the size and ability. In the Ravens system he could thrive in either role because, unlike in college, everyone around him will be doing their jobs as well as or better than he is.
There are others like Bernard Pierce, Kelechi Osemele and Gino Gradkowski that will be in a fight from day one. In Pierce's case he is the favorite to grab the number two running back position. However with the recent offensive line signings made by the Ravens, Osemele and Gradkowski look to be more long shots to crack the starting line up then the previous two players. An outstanding performance in training camp or the preseason could get them the jobs they are fighting for.
Then there is the last group. A giant squad of vet minimum free agents, undrafted free agent rookies and late round draft picks that training camp is the most important for The players that have been drafted have the upper hand simply because they already have the coaches attention and the team has already shown interest in them for what they did at the collegiate level. Guys like Asa Jackson, Christian Thompson and Tommy Streeter will be 3 examined very closely by the coaching staff for the next few weeks and months if they're lucky. One of these guys could turn out to be a diamond in the rough like Lardarius Webb or Torrey Smith last season.
The last group is the undrafted free agents. There are so many in this group that it is really hard to stand out. Once the veterans get to camp they have very limited time one on one with coaches to try and impress them. Two players in this group that may get some special attention are linebacker Nigel Carr and wide receiver Deonte Thompson. Both majorly stood out in team OTA's and both play a position in which the Ravens are in need.
This is an exciting time for players and coaches alike but the ending will be bitter sweet as the majority of the new young players in camp will be headed elsewhere before the season starts. Some will catch on with other teams and some will end up on the practice squad only to await another training camp battle next year. For some however, this could be the last time they step onto a professional NFL football field.
There are those few though. Those guys that got overlooked by most other teams for one reason or another. These guys come out of relative obscurity and set the world on fire. The Ravens are good at finding these guys and I can't wait to see who they are this year!