The Ravens specialize in finding talented undrafted rookies.
As an undrafted rookie in 2012, Justin Tucker earned a roster spot and became the most accurate placekicker in NFL history. Inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor and defensive tackle Michael Pierce have become key members of Baltimore's highly-regarded defense, after getting their NFL shot as undrafted rookies.
For 15 straight years, at least one undrafted rookie has made Baltimore's 53-man roster. That streak figures to continue in 2019, after 17 undrafted rookies participated in Ravens' minicamp last weekend. One of them was Miami (Fla.) defensive end Gerald Willis, a projected third-round pick in the April 19 mock draft done by ESPN analysts Mel Kiper and Todd McShay.
After Willis wasn't drafted, he gladly answered the phone when the Ravens called.
When you're an undrafted rookie with the Ravens, you know the opportunity to earn a roster spot is genuine.
"It's extra draft picks when you can get undrafted players to make your team – that's just bonus picks," Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "One thing about the Ravens and how we do it here with our program is, the best players play. The best players make the team. To me, it's simple. That's the way it should be. Once they get here, we're not too worried about where they got drafted, whether they got drafted, what school they're from or any of that. We're just interested in how they play and what kind of people they are. It'll be highly-competitive, and that's one of the reasons why guys want to come here… they know they have a legitimate chance to make the football team."
After losing Pro Bowl linebacker C.J. Mosley to the New York Jets during free agency, the Ravens did not draft an inside linebacker. However, they signed three undrafted inside linebackers – Otaro Alaka of Texas A&M, E.J. Ejiya of North Texas and Silas Stewart of Incarnate Word [San Antonio, TX]. The Ravens have done well with undrafted inside linebackers, including two on the current roster - Onwuasor (2016) and Chris Board (2018). It's possible another undrafted inside linebacker could land a roster spot this season.
"We look for guys who can run, guys who make a lot of tackles," Harbaugh said. "If you find a linebacker in college that makes tackles, generally that carries over into the NFL."
Baltimore is an attractive landing spot for rookie free agents after the draft. Many factors determine where players eventually sign, but once again Harbaugh sees plenty of talent among the undrafted free agents.
"A lot of times it boils down to the money – imagine that," Harbaugh said. "The other part of it is, they look at how many guys you drafted at that position or how deep you are at that position, which is certainly understandable. But in the end, we tell them, 'Don't count numbers. If you're good enough, you'll make this team. And if for some reason the numbers 'X' you out here, you'll make somebody else's team.'''