5 Undrafted Baltimore Ravens Players Who Could Prove to Be Gems
The Baltimore Ravens attack the post-draft free-agent signing period with ferocity because they know all too well that there are still many bargains to be had after the seven rounds of the NFL draft are over.
With a history of grooming bargain UDFAs into heady contributors, these are the five names with the greatest chance of becoming the next in a long lineage of successful undrafted Ravens.
It’s unlikely that all or even most of these players make the final roster, but they should all at least receive practice-squad contracts to keep them in the organization. More than a couple, however, stand a very good chance of cracking the final roster and contributing from the very beginning.
Jamie Meder, DT/DE, Ashland
Baltimore has made a concerted effort to get younger along the defensive line over the past couple of years, and that vision extends to the priority free-agent market. Jamie Meder’s chances of making the 53-man squad look slim, but that’s more to do with the depth along the defensive line than it is to do with Meder himself.
Coming from a Division II program, Meder passes the first test for a small-school prospect: dominating that weaker competition.
He was a force at Ashland and, though he won’t be as physically dominant as he was there, he possesses a lot of enticing tools that suggest he’ll be a contributor for the Ravens somewhere down the road.
For starters, he’s very strong and can anchor against the run—the primary job of any Ravens lineman. On top of that, he exhibits good balance, leverage and hand usage to go with his exciting intangibles (toughness and leadership).
The physical adjustment to the NFL shouldn’t be too overwhelming, and in time Meder could turn out to be a quality piece in the D-line puzzle.
James Hurst, OT, North Carolina
James Hurst is the best bet to be the “gem” from this UDFA class. It was somewhat of a surprise that he went undrafted in the first place, although it’s not shocking considering the broken fibula that ended his season in his last collegiate game.
Not only is Hurst a solid bet to be a role player in the long run, he has an outside shot at the starting right tackle job currently held by Ricky Wagner.
Hurst at the left tackle draws my attention a lot. He has very good feet. He seems like he’s picking it up quickly. He likes to practice. He has a heavy punch. So, he has a chance.
It’s interesting that Harbaugh specifically mentioned left tackle, and it’s perhaps an indication of the role the team foresees for Hurst. He took over first-team reps at left tackle in OTAs when Eugene Monroe wasn’t in action.
With excellent credentials and reliable technique, Hurst should be O-line depth at the very least—great value for a UDFA. He definitely possesses the size and skills to be a starter at offensive tackle (probably right tackle) in the near future.
Derrick Hopkins, DT, Virginia Tech
Derrick Hopkins lacks the ideal length you want in a defensive tackle, but he has a very strong and stout build, which helps him maintain leverage in the middle of the trenches and eat up blockers. Furthermore, his first-step quickness and knack for finding himself in the backfield is sure to catch the coaches’ eyes.
Like Meder, Hopkins faces a steep climb to the final roster, but he possesses too much upside to waive outright. The practice squad is the destination for him, and his activity and special teams contributions mean he could have the inside track to the gridiron over Meder.
Sammy Seamster, CB, Middle Tennessee State
Sammy Seamster has been one of the most talked about UDFAs on the roster, and for good reason. His physical tools are drool-worthy. He’s the new breed of cornerback that everyone is looking for. Tall and strong enough to handle the bigger receivers in the league, but quick and long enough to close gaps and break up passes.
His upside alone earns him this spot on the list. It’s important, however, to not get carried away.
With coaching and a lot of hard work, Seamster can deliver on his physical gifts, but he is an extremely raw player who wasn’t even a full-time starter in college.
He’s a wait-and-see prospect, someone who is sure to be stashed on the practice squad in the hopes that he puts it all together.
Of everyone on this list, he is the least likely to actually become a gem, but he has the most upside too.
Richie Leone, P, Houston
The Ravens found a star special teamer after the draft two years ago when they signed Justin Tucker. Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg has to be hoping that Richie Leone can follow in his footsteps.
Leone’s relative value doesn’t match his peers' on this list since many punters go undrafted, but finding a starter regardless of position after the draft ends is quite the steal.
Given Sam Koch’s inconsistent 2013 season and his sizeable cap hit, Leone will be given every opportunity to earn the starting job. With a very strong leg and plenty of versatility (he handled punts, place-kicking and kickoff duties for the Cougars), Leone is definitely a rookie to watch closely over the preseason.
Shehan Peiris is B/R's Lead Featured Columnist covering the Baltimore Ravens and a co-host of Ravens Central Radio, a weekly podcast on the Pro Football Central radio network that focuses on all things Ravens-related.
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