Meet the Undrafted Rookies Who Kept Ravens' 16-Year Streak Alive


Just days before the Ravens' roster cutdown to 53, pundits thought this year might be the end of the streak.

The Ravens had kept at least one undrafted rookie on their opening roster for 15 straight years. But with so much young talent and depth, roster competitions were especially tight this offseason.

In the end, offensive lineman Patrick Mekari and inside linebacker Otaro Alaka made it 16 consecutive years. Here's a little information about each:

Mekari (pronounced: muh-CARE-ee) is the son of Lebanese immigrants who landed in California. He had two FBS scholarships and chose Cal over Utah State in part so he could play with his brother, Tony, a nose tackle who was a year ahead.

Mekari stood out on the offensive line and earned Associated Press second-team All-Pac-12 honors as a senior. He played in 34 games (24 starts) mostly at left tackle.

Mekari got a slow start with the Ravens because he was sidelined by a back injury earlier this summer, but his smarts (legal studies major) and versatility caught coaches' attention.

He got a shot at reps with the first-team offense midway through training camp, and in the preseason finale, he started at center, bounced to left tackle, right guard and back to center. Mekari played center at Westlake High School, and credited it with teaching him the offense as a whole.

"I just wanted to show that I'm versatile," Mekari said after the preseason finale. "By playing those positions, I hope I showed them that if they need me, I'm more than happy to play wherever."

Mekari's father came to Baltimore to be with him as he awaited the team's 53-man roster decisions. They hung out, watched TV and just tried to relax.

"I left it all out there, so that's all I can ask from myself," Mekari said. "I wish I had some plays back, obviously, but at this point, I let the chips fall and sit back and hope for the best. I just want to keep playing."

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Alaka is also a first generation American, as his mother immigrated from Nigeria. Alaka was a highly-regarded prospect out of Houston, ranked as the 11th-best outside linebacker in the nation.

At Texas A&M, he earned Defensive MVP honors in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl as a true freshman. He missed his sophomore season due to a shoulder injury, which gave him a fifth year of eligibility. In his senior campaign, Alaka led the Aggies with 79 tackles, including 14.5 for loss.

By the time his college career ended, Alaka had played for two heads coaches, three defensive coordinators and lined up at every linebacker position. He has ideal size at 6-foot-3, 239 pounds, and had a strong performance at the NFL Combine, but still wasn't drafted. His teammate, defensive tackle Daylon Mack, was selected by the Ravens in the fifth round.

The Ravens have a rich history of developing undrafted inside linebackers. Two of them – Patrick Onwuasor and Chris Board – will be the team's starters this season. Alaka could be next.

Asked last week about his comfort level with just having three inside linebackers, Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale brought up Alaka, who played well enough this summer to warrant four.

"Alaka has shown some good things as well," Martindale said. "We've all seen things. He's making it interesting."

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