The Ravens seem to consistently find gems in the undrafted free agent market. Justin Tucker and Dannell Ellerbe are just two examples of general manager Ozzie Newsome’s brilliance. The Ravens have 11 undrafted rookies in camp this year. Of the group, one of the most promising UDFA’s looks to be Victor Ochi.
Ochi is an outside linebacker from Stony Brook, a Division 1A (FCS) school located on Long Island, just outside of New York City. Stony Brook plays in the CAA conference, which includes schools such as James Madison, Towson, Richmond, Villanova and quarterback Joe Flacco’s alma mater Delaware.
Even though this clearly is not a powerhouse football conference, (well, technically it’s a powerhouse at the FCS level, but not compared to a conference such as the SEC or Big Ten) Ochi’s complete dominance is still very impressive. Ochi was named the CAA Co-Defensive Player of the Year following a season in which he posted 13 sacks among 16.5 tackles per loss. He led a Stony Brook defense that allowed the fewest yards in the nation last year.
Ochi is listed as on outside linebacker on the Ravens roster, and that’s likely where he will play. He also has experience playing defensive end, an asset that could help him make his way onto the roster. Versatility is something the Ravens are always looking for. Ochi could provide depth at either position if a starter were to go down with an injury. Ochi is small for his position, but it has never stopped him from blowing by offensive tackles to clog running lanes or get to the quarterback. Keep in mind, Elvis Dumervil is a smaller linebacker who has thrived in Baltimore. Lance Zierlein of NFL.com writes. . .
In addition, Ochi played in a 3-4 defense at Stony Brook. Unlike some drafted rookies, he already has experience playing the base defense that the Ravens use. Making the jump from the FCS to the NFL is huge, but having the same base defense should help Ochi’s transition.
Despite all the hype that comes with him as a possible next great UFA, there are still some questions about him. Zierlein wrote about Ochi’s weaknesses saying that he is a "one speed pass rusher," and that he is "stiff in space."
For an outside linebacker, if bull-rushing the quarterback is your only move, you aren’t going to last long in the NFL. To make the roster, Ochi has to learn other moves and techniques to get past offensive lineman and get to the quarterback or ball carrier. Ochi also has to improve his pass coverage. While the Ravens could just use Ochi as a third down pass rusher, if he ever wants to get increased snaps, he will need to improve greatly at covering the flats. Zierlein writes. . .
Ochi comes with a great story, and a lot of talent. Few predicted Ochi to go undrafted. Mel Kiper Jr. even projected Ochi to go in the third round at one point. It seems the Ravens may have gotten a huge steal, but only if he can develop further and improve the areas of his game that are not of NFL caliber. Making the jump from the FCS to the NFL is very, very hard.
Ochi has not stood out so far at training camp, and was a non-factor in the game against the Panthers last Thursday (he had one tackle). He was outplayed by players competing for the same roster spot (Matt Judon and Chris Carter). Clearly, Ochi was fighting an uphill battle anyway as a UDFA, but the first preseason game sure didn’t help is chances.
Verdict: It’s too early to make a call either way. Ochi is squarely on the bubble right now, leaning towards the outside looking in. However, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh really wanted this guy. Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun writes. . .
Ochi has three more weeks of practice and three more games to show his worth to the team. But for right now, he is firmly on the bubble.