Who Will Be This Year's Small-School Gem?


Over the years, Ravens Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta has noticed more and more scouts at big-time colleges, creating a pack scouting effect.

Thus, Baltimore made it a priority to break away from the herd and find talent at some of the smaller schools, whether it's Division I-AA (FCS) or even Division II or III.

The Ravens' national team of scouts usually find these diamonds in the rough, and Baltimore isn't too eager to reveal its treasures before the draft begins.

"It's a pretty good crop of [small-school] guys," DeCosta said. "I don't want to tip my hand yet with these small-school guys because there's definitely a few guys that we like."

The Ravens have had a lot of success mining the small schools in recent years.

Two years ago, they selected Missouri Southern defensive tackle Brandon Williams. Now he's viewed by the Ravens as a potential Pro Bowl player, and a big reason why the team pulled the trigger on trading Haloti Ngata.

Baltimore also drafted starting fullback Kyle Juszczyk out of Harvard in 2013 in the fourth round. They grabbed backup offensive lineman Ryan Jensen out of Colorado State-Pueblo in the sixth round.

In 2009, the Ravens selected cornerback Lardarius Webb out of Nicholls State in the third round. He's been a Pro-Bowl caliber player when healthy, and has committed to the team as one of its leaders in the secondary.

"We've tried to exploit that a little bit because I think scouting in general has gotten better," DeCosta said. "Teams are spending more and more resources on big schools, and just everybody seems to be going after the same players. So we've tried to take advantage of that and maybe go after some small-school guys."

So who could be this year's gems?

While DeCosta didn't give any names, Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz named three: offensive lineman Ali Marpet (Hobart College), tight end Nick Boyle (Delaware) and cornerback Tye Smith (Towson).

Hobart has never had a player drafted from its football team, but the 6-foot-3, 307-pound Marpet will likely be the first. He's a gritty player with good feet who can play center or guard. Marpet was the first Division III player chosen to play in the Senior Bowl.

Boyle is a 6-foot-4 tight end who caught 37 passes for 304 yards and four touchdowns as a senior. He never put up huge numbers, but he has a good receiving/blocking combination and also played at the Senior Bowl.

Smith, a combine invite, has good size at 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.60 seconds. He was a top performer in the 20-yard shuttle (3.96 seconds). Smith logged six interceptions, six forced fumbles and 25 passes defensed during his career.

"There are some local guys from small schools that are on our radar here, and then obviously throughout the country, our [scouts] have guys throughout," Hortiz said. "But I probably won't give you those names."

When it comes to players not everybody knows, the Ravens are fairly tight lipped. If they don't end up drafting them, Baltimore could look to sign them to rookie free-agent contracts.

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