Like many other Baltimore Ravens defenders, Michael Pierce has received high marks from Pro Football Focus. He was ranked as the number two run stopper in the league, with a 12.5% run-stopping percentage.
Before the 2016 season, the name Pierce’s was practically unheard of to many NFL fans. Little did they know, a star was in the making.
While playing at the FCS school Samford, Pierce showed that his strength in the weight room often transferred to the football field. In one highlight video, he is shown squatting 725 lbs. The video also shows his ability to get to the ball, whether it be in the hands of the quarterback or the running back.
While in college, Pierce played in 47 games (32 starts), totaling 145 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 24 tackles for a loss. His accolades include making it to the All-Southern Conference first-team in his senior season, earning placement on the second-team his junior season and receiving Conference USA All-Freshman honors while with the Tulane Green Wave before transferring to Samford.
Despite his prowess at Samford, Pierce was not invited to the NFL Combine. Standing in at 6’0, 329 lbs, Pierce would participate in his own Pro Day. He ran a 10-meter split faster than any other defensive lineman (Pierce’s split was 1.67 and the closest was Alex McCalister's at 1.68). Pierce’s broad jump of nine feet and seven inches was ranked within the top-15 of defensive linemen.
Although he made strides in showcasing himself to teams, he would go undrafted. In May of 2016, the Ravens signed him as an undrafted rookie free agent. Pierce would make the team and go on to be a valuable cog on the defense. He finished the season playing in all 16 games, with a 19 tackles, two sacks and one pass defended.
This upcoming season, Pierce will see an increased role on the defense. Pierce only started one game last season. Alongside Pierce will be Brandon Williams, who is also very good at stopping the run.
In 2016, teams averaged just 89.4 rushing yards per game against the Ravens, ranking 5th in the NFL. Teams had trouble running up the middle with the duo of Pierce and Williams. With Pierce going into his second year and continuing to improve, teams will most likely still have trouble running the ball against Baltimore’s two massive defenders.