5 Players Who Might Find Themselves on Baltimore Ravens' Practice Squad in 2014
Most of the hubbub surrounding the Baltimore Ravens training camp will pertain to the battle for the final roster spots, but some players are unfortunate victims of the numbers game. With every spot carrying so much value, the practice squad is sometimes the more realistic option for young players—and that is especially true for the group discussed in this slideshow.
Before the players are discussed, some practice squad background may be required. All of these candidates are undrafted free agents (only one of whom is not a rookie this season) and that’s for good reason.
The practice squad is meant to be a place for development, so only players without an accrued season of NFL experience (i.e., six regular-season games on the active roster) are allowed to fill out the eight-man scout team.
Furthermore, players can only be stashed on the team for two seasons (with a third being possible only in certain situations).
For these reasons, this list is made up of young players who have potential but need a year of seasoning or face too much competition at their positions to make the final 53-man squad.
Even though they’re out of sight for at least a year, the practice squad is a great place to learn the ins and outs of the Ravens system and impress the coaching staff for next year.
Jeremy Butler, WR
Four of the Ravens’ wide receiver spots are going to Torrey Smith, Steve Smith Sr., Jacoby Jones and Marlon Brown unless there is an injury.
After that, it’s an all-out war for the remaining spot(s). It’s unclear how many receivers the Ravens will carry, but it’s unlikely that they'll keep more than six.
As such, the pool competing for the last one or two roster spots is made up of Michael Campanaro, Deonte Thompson, LaQuan Williams, Kamar Aiken, Gerrard Sheppard and Jeremy Butler.
Of the bunch, Butler has been the most impressive based on various reports—like this tidbit from ESPN.com’s Jamison Hensley:
Wide receiver Jeremy Butler continues to make plays this offseason. The rookie from Tennessee-Martin is trying to become the latest undrafted success story for the Ravens. Butler is making more catches than the other players who are competing for one of the last receiver spots on the team such as Michael Campanaro, Deonte Thompson and LaQuan Williams.
Unfortunately, a strong OTA showing won’t be enough for him to make the final roster. With such a heated competition, Butler’s odds are slim, and Campanaro would seem to have the inside track based on his unique niche as a slot receiver. Also, the Ravens probably don’t want to risk losing him after trading back into the seventh round of the NFL draft to select him.
If Butler doesn’t make the 53-man roster, however, he’s almost certain to receive an offer to stick around on the practice squad.
At 6’2” and 224 pounds, he has great size and has quickly proved his worth as a big-bodied possession receiver.
He doesn’t have the speed to become a deep threat, but with some work on his route running, he could become a valuable chain-mover.
Parker Graham, OL
The Ravens love versatility in their backup linemen, and Parker Graham definitely fits the bill. He started at both tackle spots and at right guard during his time at Oklahoma State and has excellent size at 6’7” and 308 pounds.
Another factor that works in his favor is his intelligence. He was a three-time academic All-Big 12 honoree, which bodes well for his ability to learn the blocking scheme.
His footwork isn’t great, which means that he projects better as a guard, and there is definitely too much competition (Ryan Jensen, John Urschel, Jah Reid, Will Rackley and A.Q. Shipley) at the position for him to find his way onto the team—especially after missing OTAs with an undisclosed injury.
With some work, however, he could become a utility lineman who could fill in wherever he’s needed along the line.
Jamie Meder, DT
Jamie Meder was a monster at Ashland, earning the conference defensive lineman of the year honors twice.
With the depth along the defensive line, he's unlikely to survive through all the roster cuts. The small-school background is a slight concern, but there is plenty to love about him, which is why he stands a good chance of latching on with the practice squad.
For starters, he does a lot of the little things very well. He plays very hard and was extremely effective despite receiving a lot of attention from opposing blockers.
He may not have faced the best competition, but he is technically sound and demonstrates great balance and leverage to go with his violent hand usage.
He’s not explosive off the line of scrimmage, but he brings toughness, leadership and strength to the table—qualities that embody the phrase “Play Like a Raven.”
Meder can take advantage of a season to get familiar with the defense and build his body for the rigors of an NFL season, because he figures to be a factor in the D-line conversation at this time next year.
Sammy Seamster, CB
Some of the other players are on this list because there is too much competition at their respective positions. Sammy Seamster could actually end up making the roster because of the lack of competition at his position.
Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith are the only proven cornerbacks on the roster, with a relatively underwhelming group behind them trying to fill out the depth chart.
It’s very likely that general manager Ozzie Newsome brings in more challengers if none of the current options stands out, but as it stands, Seamster may make the roster by default because he has the most upside of the group.
That would speak volumes about his potential, however, because he is a very raw prospect who couldn’t hold down a full-time starting gig at Middle Tennessee State.
The physical tools are evident, but he needs a lot of coaching to be able to read quarterbacks effectively and maintain the correct leverage before he’s ready for a prominent role with the defense.
His combination of size (6'1", 200 pounds), length and speed makes him worth stashing on the practice squad, where he’ll have the time to hone his craft.
Derrick Hopkins, DT
Derrick Hopkins is another defensive tackle who will be squeezed out by the excess (in a good way) of young talent along the D-line.
He plays with tremendous energy and exhibits a quick first step that allows him to knife into the backfield and make plays behind the line of scrimmage.
At 6'0", 309 pounds, he lacks the ideal frame and size of a defensive tackle, but he’s very strong and can hold his ground against bigger blockers.
Furthermore, he’s effective on special teams, which only increases his value.
The battle between Hopkins and Meder will be an interesting one because they may end up competing for a roster spot somewhere down the road.
For now, however, both players have enough talent and potential to be worth hanging onto on the practice squad.