By Joe Schiller
The Ravens are among the league’s best went it comes to finding undrafted talent. At least one undrafted rookie has made the 53-man roster in Baltimore for 15 straight seasons.
Will the streak continue?
Eric DeCosta and Co. brought in another talented group that’s already beginning to grab attention throughout the early portions of the offseason.
With OTAs in the books and mandatory minicamp beginning today, here are five undrafted rookies to watch.
Marcus Applefield, OL
With no contact allowed during OTAs, it’s common for skill position players to receive the bulk of the attention. That stays consistent until pads are put on, but Marcus Applefield will be an undrafted rookie to watch in the trenches.
Applefield started 13 games at right tackle for Virginia Tech in 2018. Listed as a tackle on the roster, Applefield tested even better at guard, where he started ten games at Rutgers.
With Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr. staffing the tackle spots, guard is Applefield’s best route to the 53-man roster. Marshal Yanda signed a one-year extension this offseason but could retire following the season now at 34-years-old. On the other side, there’s an open competition at left guard.
Otara Alaka, ILB
Eric DeCosta and John Harbaugh have repeatedly emphasized that they’re confident in the inside linebacker group despite C.J. Mosley’s departure. The Ravens haven’t signed a free-agent linebacker up to this point, and Eric DeCosta did not select a linebacker in the NFL Draft.
The Ravens, however, did add a group of undrafted linebackers, which carries more weight than other positions given Baltimore’s track record. Otara Alaka could follow in the footsteps of teammates Patrick Onwuasor and Chris Board.
Alaka may have one of the best routes to the 53-man roster. Inside linebacker is one of the thinnest positions on the roster, and if Alaka can hone his special teams skills, he could carve out a role in Wink Martindale’s defense.
Antoine Wesley, WR
The wide receiver corps is undetermined in Baltimore. The Ravens completely revamped the position this offseason, signing Seth Roberts in free agency along with draft Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin.
Uncertainty could open up the door for Antoine Wesley. The undrafted receiver out of Texas Tech was one of college football’s top receivers last season, tallying 1,410 and nine touchdowns in Kliff Kingsberry’s Air Raid offense.
Wesley reportedly flashed during OTAs, making a handful of plays.
The Ravens took just six receivers on the 53-man roster last season. Willie Snead IV, Chris Moore, Seth Roberts, Brown, and Boykin are locks to make it. That presumably leaves a handful of players competing for one or two roster spots.
Wesley faces an uphill battle, but his size (6-foot-4, 206 pounds) is intriguing.
Sean Modster, WR
Eric DeCosta emphasized speed this offseason, looking to build a track team around Lamar Jackson and Sean Modster fits that criteria. Modster wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine, his 20-yard shuttle (4.06) at Boise State’s Pro Day finished only behind Parris Campbell and Cody Thompson. His 60-yard shuttle (11.24) would’ve been fastest at the combine.
Modster totaled 68 receptions for 978 yards and eight touchdowns as a redshirt senior with the Broncos. Unlike the big-bodied receivers fighting for roster spots, like Wesley, Modster’s size (5-foot-11, 183 pounds) makes him an option in the slot alongside Snead, one of the most sure-handed receivers on the roster. But Modster could provide the perfect complement to a gritty, hard-nosed Snead.
Modster has already made his mark in OTAs, earning praise from Cornerback Tavon Young, who signed a three-year extension this offseason.
“We’ve been competing, so it’s not really one guy that I would say … No. 14 [Sean Modster], he came alive the past couple practices,” Young said.
Gerald Willis, DL
If you’ve kept track of the Ravens’ undrafted rookies this offseason, then you’re familiar with Gerald Willis.
A highly regarded talent coming out of Miami, Willis was considered to be a mid-round pick by pundits but went undrafted due to off-field issues.
Willis is arguably the most talented undrafted rookie in Baltimore, but the reason he’s included on this list is that he missed the first two weeks of OTAs dealing with a calf injury. Now back healthy, I’ll be excited to see what another young disruptive talent can do on the defensive line alongside Michael Pierce and Brandon Williams.