The Undrafted Ones

If you didn't already know by now, the Ravens have a young team. To be exact, they have the youngest team in the NFL, even younger than the expansion Texans.

All in all, the Ravens are likely to keep at least 15 rookies, maybe more, on the entire team. That makes up close to 30% of the roster. Mind you, these are just the rookies that will comprise a good portion of the team. We haven't even begun to talk about second and third-year players.


But let's focus on the first-year players that should make the Ravens' final 53-man roster. More specifically, the focus will be placed on the rookies that weren't drafted.


These are the unwanted ones. These are the players that fall off of many radar screens around the league. These are the guys that people just sign to fill a roster spot, just to have a warm body on the team.

More often than not though, at least a couple of these grunts end up being good players down the road. Yes, a little luck is involved when trying to acquire them. But when you obtain a guy that's clearly a better player than people think, or just wasn't given a fair shake, the results could be startling.

Around the league, players like Kurt Warner, Jeff Garcia, Rod Smith, Sammy Knight, and London Fletcher have been surprise impact players despite being after thoughts as college prospects.


In the last few years, the Ravens themselves have picked up starters in Lional Dalton, Priest Holmes, Bennie Anderson, Kelly Gregg and Mike Flynn.


The Ravens hope that this year's class of rookies will be their best yet. Here are five players that are close to sealing their names on the roster:


1.      Will Demps: In the past couple of weeks, no player has ascended further up the depth chart than Demps, a former walk-on from San Diego State. He went from being possibly an intriguing fit as the fourth safety, to becoming the starter. And it wasn't exactly easy to overtake Anthony Mitchell-- the only veteran holdover from last year and Chad Williams--a promising sixth round pick from Southern Mississippi.  But Demps deserves the shot. He has shown nice range and recognition. He always seems to be around the ball and wraps up well when making a tackle. His pass coverage skills are still a work in progress, but he has the speed to become solid. And because he has shown a great deal of versatility, the Ravens like what they see, because they require both safeties to be similar players. Demps may not be as good as his counter part Ed Reed just yet, but he's making his mark.


2.      Ma'ake Kemoeatu: When the Ravens signed Kemoeatu, it was clear that he was their best prospect out of the many undrafted rookies they snagged. A former standout defensive tackle from Utah, Kemoeatu has shown that he is adept at playing the run and staying stout against opposing interior lineman. That's not surprising, considering that Utah used a two-gap defense in college. Kemoeatu gives you nothing as a pass rusher though, which is okay if he can consistently hold up at the point of attack. For now, look for him to be heavily involved in the Ravens' rotation at defensive tackle.


3.      Bart Scott: Scott started out fast, but has hit the wall during the last couple of preseason games. Still, the former small school product from Southern Illinois is learning how to shed blocks consistently. He doesn't have great speed, but has decent quickness and a nose for the ball. Scott is also tough for a guy that only weighs a shade over 230-pounds. Like the other backup linebackers that will comprise the team's roster, Scott will need to make a bigger mark on special teams coverage his first year. In another year or two, after hitting the weight room and learning the intricacies of the Ravens' aggressive defensive scheme, Scott could become a contributor.


4.      Mike Collins: Picking up Mike Collins, a player that a number of scouts thought would be drafted, was a coup for the Ravens. Collins has been awfully inconsistent at guard during all three of the Ravens' last couple of preseason games, but has still shown nice flashes. He is a physical player that does a nice job of locking onto the defender, and he moves his feet well. Collins also does a nice job of holding up at the point of attack. Due to the fact that he doesn't move that well in space, don't look for the Ravens to use him in pulling situations. But if he keeps showing nice work ethic and desire, Collins could end up being a diamond in the rough and a solid backup for the next couple of years.


5.    J.R. Johnson: Simply put: Johnson is a special teams demon. This outside linebacker has a nonstop motor and it shows when he covers punt and kick returns downfield. Johnson was deemed strictly an athlete coming out of Syracuse, and the Ravens like that about him. During the combine, Johnson ran a 4.3 in the 40 and showed nice agility and athleticism. Still, it's unlikely that the Ravens will get much mileage out of him as a linebacker, his natural position. Instead, the team has used him as their No.1 gunner, a position generally manned by corners and receivers. Johnson though, has certainly re-defined the position. He uses his 240-pound frame and physical instincts to fight off blockers down field, while flying to the ball the whole way. While playing any role on special teams holds little recognition, Johnson could become a big time player for the Ravens.

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