Late for Work 4/22: Ravens Hold Advantage to Score Big With Undrafted Rookies

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General Manager Eric Decosta and Director of Player Personnel Joe Hortiz

Ravens Will Benefit From the 'Greatest' Undrafted Class

For the Ravens, their draft extends beyond the seventh round.

Some of their best value over the years has come from undrafted rookies. And with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the offseason, teams haven't been able to follow their normal pre-draft procedures.

With less meetings, pro days, and in-person visits, pundits believe this could be one of the greatest undrafted classes.

Increased technology and social distancing could also make it the most challenging.

"The most interesting part of this draft, to personnel people, is what will happen when round seven is over," NBC Sports' Peter King wrote. "Every year, after the seventh round, scouts and coaches from the 32 NFL teams spend about the next two hours bartering with agents of undrafted players and with the undrafted player, trying to buy them cheap and do it while competing with 31 other buyers. But usually everyone's in the same room doing it, or in rooms very close to the draft room so they can report when they land a player—or lose one."

Part of the Ravens' recruiting pitch is their track record. They have a strong reputation for giving undrafted rookies a legitimate chance and developing them, and that could give them a distinct advantage over other teams.

"[H]ow teams handle the signing of undrafted free agents — a hectic endeavor under normal circumstances — should be interesting," WNST's Luke Jones wrote. "This is another area in which the Ravens should have an advantage while recognizing their reputation for giving real opportunities to undrafted talents."

Just last season, former undrafted players such as Justin Tucker, Morgan Cox, Gus Edwards, Patrick Ricard, Matt Skura, Patrick Mekari and Michael Pierce were significant contributors to the Ravens' success. Pierce ended up signing a big contract with the Minnesota Vikings this offseason.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Ravens have the fewest (57) players under contract. That leaves them with 33 spots to fill on the 90-man roster. At least one undrafted rookie has made the 53-man roster in 16 straight seasons.

"[T]his year's draft will be different," SB Nation's Geoff Schwartz wrote. "Teams that have done the background in the fall, have made connections with college coaches, and are more prepared will do fine in this draft. But what seems like a minor inconvenience for some could be a huge inconvenience for others — specifically, the fringe draft picks who are hurt the most by the cancellation of events."

Sports Illustrated Mocks Auburn's Marlon Davidson to Ravens

There's no question inside linebacker and offensive line are two of the Ravens' biggest needs heading into Thursday night.

But what if the Ravens don't value an interior offensive lineman at the end of the first round? What if Kenneth Murray and Patrick Queen aren't on the board by the 28th-overall pick?

Those are realistic possibilities to prepare for, and in his one and only mock draft Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer believes another defensive prospect could be in play.  Breer mocked Auburn edge Marlon Davidson to Baltimore.

"The Ravens would love to get a linebacker, but there just isn't one left here worthy of a first-round pick," Breer wrote. "So they reset and find the kind of inside/outside force that Wink Martindale can move all over his front."

In Breer's mock, Murray went to the Philadelphia Eagles at 21 and Queen landed with the Miami Dolphins at 26. He even mocked Texas Tech linebacker Jordyn Brooks to the New Orleans Saints at 24.

We've talked about Davidson as a fit for the Ravens. NFL Network's Bucky Brooks said Davidson "screams Baltimore Raven," with his physical play and versatility on the defensive line.

"His skill set should help him contribute in any scheme, as should his motor," The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer wrote. "Davidson was almost immovable as an edge-setting, stand-up end for Auburn, and his added weight could help him fare just as well inside. When he had a good get-off at the line of scrimmage, his hand usage and thick upper body made his pass-rush arc difficult to disrupt. Davidson even blocked three field-goal attempts last year."

Shaffer noted that Davidson would likely have to play as a three-technique lineman in Martindale's defense. There are questions how he could translate to the next level, but the production (11 ½ tackles for loss and 6 ½ sacks) is promising.

Depending on who you ask, a first-round projection may be too high for Davidson. The Draft Network's Benjamin Solak called him a "scheme-specific" Day 2 candidate.

Ravens Have Dominated the Draft Since 2000

When referring to the best drafting teams, the Ravens are always in the conversation. So much that Bleacher Report's Tyler Brooke ranked the Ravens as the team who've dominated the draft the most since 2000.

"When it comes to finding gems on draft day, no one has done a better job since 2000 than former general manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens," Brooke wrote. "Although Newsome stepped down after the 2018 season, the impact he had on the Ravens franchise will be remembered forever. As a front office executive, Newsome has been the part of two Super Bowl championships and helped build the foundation for another contender."

No team has drafted more Pro Bowlers (26) during that span.

Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed (2002) was one of the best to play the game at his position. Once it's their time, Terrell Suggs and potentially Marshal Yanda will be Canton bound.

But Brooke said Newsome's final draft as general manager might go down as his most memorable with Lamar Jackson, as well as third-round Pro Bowlers Mark Andrews and Orlando Brown Jr. Now DeCosta, Newsome's right-hand-man for so many years is in control of the Ravens' future.

Brooke believes it could end with championship aspirations.

"Living up to the success of Newsome in the draft will be hard, but if DeCosta can even come close, the Ravens could be hoisting another Lombardi Trophy sooner rather than later," Brooke wrote.

SEC Coaches Weigh in on Conference's Top Prospects

The Southeastern Conference (SEC) consistently produces some of the best draft talent year in and year out, and 2020 is no different. There are a ton of talented prospects to choose from, and AL.com's Matt Zenitz spoke with 11 SEC coaches and staffers to get the scoop.

Here's what was said about some of the players linked to the Ravens.

Alabama WR Jerry Jeudy

If the Ravens draft Jeudy, they're likely going to have to trade up. He was voted by some coaches with the potential to be a perennial Pro Bowl player. One staffer told Zenitz that Jeudy is "just as good or better" than Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley.

Kentucky WR Lynn Bowden

One of the more unique prospects in this draft, Bowden made the switch from receiver to quarterback for the Wildcats last season. He's entering the draft as a receiver and was voted as the toughest player in the SEC to prepare for and match up against.

Alabama OLB Anfernee Jennings

We highlighted Jennings in Yesterday's Late for Work as a mid-round prospect linked to the Ravens. SEC staffers voted him as one of the under-the-radar names who general managers could be interested in.

"If you're just talking about a pure man, Jennings is a pure man," a coach told Zenitz. "You'd probably have to look at somebody that came out 10 years ago to even find a comparison for him. He's the last of a dying breed. They don't make 'em like Anfernee anymore. That's a throwback linebacker."

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