Finding talented players who weren't drafted is one of the Ravens' specialties.
This year, they landed a double dose of undrafted talent at tight end. General Manager Eric DeCosta thinks highly of both Jake Breeland and Eli Wolf, two members of the Ravens' undrafted rookie class who have a chance to make the 53-man roster.
The trade that sent Hayden Hurst to the Atlanta Falcons removed an important piece from the Ravens' three-headed tight end group. Hurst caught 30 passes for 349 yards and two touchdowns last season, playing the exact same number of snaps (457) as Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews. Nick Boyle's devastating blocking created running lanes for a record-setting rushing attack, and Boyle also had his best season as a receiver (31 catches, 321 yards, two touchdowns).
While Andrews and Boyle remain a formidable one-two punch, the Ravens are seeking more depth at the position and Breeland and Wolf will get an opportunity to provide it.
Breeland was having a huge year through six games at Oregon (26 catches, 405 yards, six touchdowns) before a season-ending knee injury cost him in the draft. The injury did not, however, lower DeCosta's opinion of Breeland.
"We thought he was one of the best tight ends in the draft this year," DeCosta said during a conference call with PSL Owners. "We're very excited to get him. We think he's got a real good chance."
The 6-foot-5, 240-pound Breeland was invited to the NFL Scouting Combine in February but did not participate in on-field workouts. On April 13, Breeland told CBS Channel 13 in Eugene, Ore. that he had been cleared to run.
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman is well known for his ability to utilize tight ends effectively, and in his offense, all tight ends are asked to block. Boyle, who played in every game last season, is one of the NFL's top blocking tight ends, which is a reason why he led all Baltimore tight ends in snaps played (769). Hurst also played in every game last year, while Andrews played in all but one game, putting together a Pro Bowl season with 64 catches for 852 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Breeland lined up in variety of spots at Oregon, playing in an NFL style offense led by quarterback Justin Herbert, who was drafted No. 6 overall by the Los Angeles Chargers. Signing with the Ravens seemed like the right fit to Breeland after conversations with Tight Ends Coach Bobby Engram and Assistant Tight Ends Coach Andy Bischoff.
"Coach Bobby and Andy, they're super-good guys," Breeland told Glenn Clark Radio. "They were really telling me that they wanted to coach me and that I was a great player. That meant a lot to me. With the Ravens' system, with how they use their tight ends. [With] Lamar Jackson, the incredible quarterback he is and how he can scramble and just make some plays and the tight ends pop open. It was overall just a good fit. Me and my agent were talking about it a lot and it was definitely the best place for me to go. Of course, I definitely believe I can make the roster and I can get in some playing time this year.''
Breeland is a better-known prospect than Wolf, who played as a grad transfer at Georgia last year after spending three seasons at Tennessee. Wolf caught 13 passes for 194 yards and a touchdown last season, and he's not the only person in his family pursuing an NFL career. His older brother, Ethan, was on the Los Angeles Rams' practice squad last season.
"He's probably not as household of a name as Jake, but he's another guy we felt was a draftable prospect," DeCosta said. "We've got two guys with a realistic, possible, chance to make our team. As you all know, tight end is a very important position in our offense."
Wolf was not invited to the Combine, but he tried to answer any questions about his speed by sending a workout video to interested teams. At 6-foot-5, 245 pounds, Wolf was timed running an impressive 4.43 in the 40-yard dash during his video.
At least one undrafted rookie has made Baltimore's Week 1 roster for 16 straight years. Breeland and Wolf plan on extending that streak, and Wolf said he is grateful to have an opportunity to join an offense that is tight end friendly.
"Baltimore was a place I really liked going in," Wolf told Homestations.com. "They showed me a lot of attention early. When I did get that call and told them, 'Hey let's make this work,' it was a big weight lifted off my shoulders."