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Ravens Begin Mad Dash For Undrafted Players


John Harbaugh wasn't able to come to the auditorium at the Under Armour Performance Center for a press conference to wrap up the Ravens' 2014 draft.

He was too busy recruiting.

As soon as the Ravens made their final pick of the draft, Harbaugh, his assistant coaches and the team's scouts unofficially went back on the clock. They immediately started making calls to bring in the class of undrafted free agents.

"We are in the midst of recruiting," General Manager Ozzie Newsome said at the start of the press conference. "We've already started to work the phones with the undrafted college free agents."

Attracting undrafted players is an important and often underrated part of the draft process, and it is particularly critical this season with a deep draft class. The Ravens have found undrafted free-agent gems in the past, including wide receiver Marlon Brown last season. Linebackers Jameel McClain, Bart Scott and Josh Bynes were also all undrafted signees.

The Ravens entered this draft with about 180 players with draftable grades, compared to 140-150 in previous years. With a larger group of NFL-ready players, some of them slipped out of the draft and are looking for suitors.

"There are a lot of players out there," Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta said. "[Scouts] Mark [Azevedo] and Joe Douglas are working very hard with the scouts and coaches to get everybody organized and we think it will end up being very effective."

Unlike the draft where players have to go wherever they get selected, prospects have more control in free agency. They can select between multiple offers, and teams have to recruit to get them to Baltimore.

The scene during the recruiting process is somewhat chaotic.

"If anybody has ever seen the Wall Street floor during heavy volume trading, that is kind of what it's like," DeCosta said. "You have scouts and coaches on the phones, guys on the white board writing names down, talking signing bonuses, negotiating, talking to agents, talking to players, trying to get deals done. The contracts are flying. Coaches do a hectic job of recruiting, and it's a hectic environment."

The Ravens can use the pool of undrafted players as an opportunity to fill any remaining needs on the roster. Cornerback is a likely spot to add players, as the Ravens currently have just four on the roster and did not draft one.

"I think all of the young men that we will be recruiting will look at that and say, 'Hey, they didn't draft a corner.' So they see an opportunity," Newsome said. "Hopefully we'll be able to get the top of the list of guys who are out there available because they can look here and see an opportunity to come in and hopefully make our squad."

The Ravens found themselves in good position to connect with some of the undrafted prospects because they made their final pick early in the seventh round. The Ravens made their final pick at No. 218 after trading back into the seventh round for wide receiver Michael Campanaro, but there were still 256 total picks.

Ending early allowed the Ravens to get a jump on calling some of their targets.

"We are able to talk to players during the draft, and agents as well," DeCosta said. "Guys are up there and we have a little bit of an advantage in that we are done picking."


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