However, the real draft for Baltimore’s front office will start as soon as the 256th pick is made on Saturday. The Ravens currently hold 57 players under contract, the fewest of any NFL team.
GMs have discussed that the most challenging part of this draft might be the race to sign undrafted free agents after it.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 21, 2020
Ravens have the fewest players under contract (57), and the most flexibility to sign free agents; Raiders have the most players (79), and least flexibility. pic.twitter.com/suHUrMy82C
Ravens have excelled in this area and should have an undrafted rookie class of 20-plus players (given they have nine draft picks).— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) April 21, 2020
An undrafted rookie has made the Ravens' season-opening roster in 16 straight seasons, the second-longest streak in the NFL (behind the Colts at 21) https://t.co/Kh8gVtLhZv
Considering the Ravens legacy of UDFA players making the final 53 man (now 55 man) roster, high end UDFA’s are typically drawn to Baltimore.
When Jake Louque and I interviewed Ravens linebacker Otaro Alaka last week, he essentially stated that his agent recommended the Ravens because they give all players a (somewhat) equal shot to make the roster.
Combining the team’s reputation for giving those who aren’t drafted a real chance with the amount of roster spots available heading into training camp, the Ravens could have a better UDFA class than many teams actual draft classes.
Considering the prowess that the Ravens front office has in finding small school and/or overlooked players with the unique situation that has unfolded due to COVID-19 could create the perfect storm for the best rookie class in team history.
NFL Network’s head draft analyst, Daniel Jeremiah, has been vocal about the impact that limited interviews, pro days, meetings etc. will have on this years draft.
Typically, around 40 players who weren’t invited to the NFL Combine are drafted each year. Jeremiah expects that number to be much lower because:
• Teams won’t have had the chance to perform medical examinations on non-combine players.
• Teams haven’t been able to have as much face-to-face interaction with players, let alone establish relationships with them.
• Pro days are a huge opportunity for small school prospects, or prospects that had medial/other concerns to be vetted outside of the combine.
All in all, the Ravens have excelled at navigating the UDFA waters throughout their franchise history.
Just last year, Otaro Alaka and Patrick Mekari both made the roster. While Alaka wasn’t much of a factor, Mekari stepped in admirably for injured center Matt Skura and ended up starting in a playoff game against the Tennessee Titans, playing 100% of snaps.
The a Ravens have long prided themselves on their ability to find “diamond in the rough” prospects. Now, with a potential 20+ UDFA class, they will get a chance to prove just how well they can turn coal into diamond.
If the Ravens are able to hit on a few UDFA players that they sign next week, they will enhance their draft class and provide depth as they transition into utilizing one of the NFL’s youngest rosters despite having the best record in football last season.
Bringing in a massive, talented rookie class will increase the level of competition in practice, provide Eric DeCosta and the Ravens coaching staff cheap flexibility and a plethora of young, hungry players looking to prove themselves in Baltimore.
The Ravens have the opportunity to find great depth and financial flexibility over the next few years with such a large rookie class. Let’s see what Eric DeCosta can do.