Undrafted players get their chance

Undrafted players get their chance
April 29, 2013, 10:00 am
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The picture of the Ravens' 2013 roster grew a little clearer this week after the Ravens made 10 picks in the NFL Draft, but the work of crafting the roster hardly ends there. In fact, as soon as Mr. Irrelevant has been chosen -- and this year, South Carolina tight end Justice Cunningham was the last player taken in the draft by the Colts -- the Ravens' front office begins hitting the phones, contacting undrafted free agents, hoping to lure them to Baltimore for a tryout and/or a signing.

In fact, much of that legwork had already been done, as the Ravens begin reaching out to players in the weeks and months before the draft. The Ravens assume some of these players won't be drafted, but they want an inside track on them as free agents.

Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta noted that because the draft was so deep this year, there were still as many as 20 players that they had identified as draftable who were never selected.

"Hopefully, we can get four or five or six of those guys who we think are draftable prospects," DeCosta said after the draft had ended. "If we do that, one way of looking at it is we had the 10 picks, and we can get four or five of those [draftable] types, it’s really like we had 15 picks in our mind.”

For any undrafted player who signs with the Ravens, the sting of not being drafted can be placated by the fact that many undrafted Ravens have gone on to resounding success.

That includes Priest Holmes, Mike Flynn, Bart Scott, Jameel McClain and Dannell Ellerbe.

Last year's Super Bowl team featured three rookie free agents who were never drafted -- kicker Justin Tucker, wide receiver Deonte Thompson and running back Bobby Rainey, who ended the season on injured reserve.

The Ravens have not officially listed their undrafted free agent signings, but published reports indicate that this year's group has a decidedly local flavor. The signings, according to the Baltimore Sun, include Penn defensive end Brandon Copeland, who went to Gilman and West Virginia offensive lineman Jeff Braun of Westminster, who played high school ball at Winters Mill. The Ravens have also signed Maryland tight end Matt Furstenburg and Towson wide receiver Gerrard Sheppard, who played high school ball at McDonogh. The Ravens also signed Trent Steelman, the Army quarterback that Navy fans have seen plenty of over the past four years.

All these players know that making the NFL is a longshot, but their foot is now in the door at a place that has a history of hitting on such longshots.

"This goes all the way back to Priest Holmes," general manager Ozzie Newsome said, referring to the Ravens' success with undrafted free agents.

"Each year there are guys that get the opportunity to come in and make our ballclub."