Downtown Sports Network

AFC North

6 Baltimore Ravens UDFA’s to Keep an Eye On

Image Credit: Damond Talbot @ Draft Diamonds

It has been one week since the draft ended and the undrafted free agent market has been all but decided. The Baltimore Raven franchise has a rich history of undrafted free agents making the roster. Importantly, Baltimore has had at least one UDFA make the roster nearly every year for the past 20 seasons.

Most notable include:
RB’s Priest Holmes, Gus Edwards
FB/DL Pat Ricard
DL Michael Pierce
LB’s Bart Scott, Zachary Orr, & Patrick Onwuasor
K Justin Tucker

I dove into the 2020 UDFA’s and found six players to keep an eye out for when training camp opens up. Obviously, roster health, positional depth and player performance will ultimately decide the fate of these players. Luckily, these players are battling to catch the eye of the not only the Ravens’ coaches, but the other 31 coaching staffs during the preseason. Thus, these six UDFA’s have the best chance to make the roster in Baltimore, or another NFL roster in 2020.

 

Oregon TE Jacob Breeland

  • Height: 6’5”
  • Weight: 250 lbs
  • Senior
  • PFF National Team of the Week in week two
  • Led PAC-12 TE’s in receiving touchdowns… despite playing only 6 games (torn ACL, meniscus)

After watching the Oregon-Auburn game at the beginning of the season, one thought came across my mind. Jacob Breeland has the tools to be a perfect tight end #3 on the Ravens’ roster. His game has a nice mixture of Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle. However, I do not think Breeland will ever become a top notch tight end and may always serve the #2 or #3 tight end role on a roster. 

Against Auburn, Breeland showed great body positioning on his blocks. He was asked to help a lot in their pass protection in this game. He did an excellent job in setting the edge on many Justin Herbert rollouts. Breeland got his shoulders turned and butt pointed to the sidelines as he helped the tackles contain the edge rush. Also, the Oregon tight end was used in a lot of split/cross blocks as an H-Back. He showed no hesitation in meeting front seven players.

Breeland moved throughout the offense. He aligned out wide and in the slot and did a great job in stalk blocking and down blocking in the screen game. He had multiple reps aligned out wide, in the slot, on the line as a traditional tight end, and in the backfield. Oregon’s coaching staff placed a lot of roles and responsibilities on Breeland and it shows in film.

Breeland effectively climbed to the second level and cut off linebackers. He definitely has a lot of solid building blocks he can build on in the blocking department. But, Breeland will need to add some strength as his head-to-head (or ‘on’) blocking often resulted in him losing ground. Baltimore has done an excellent job of putting their tight ends in roles that best fit their strengths. With Boyle as a mentor, Breeland could have a nice chance to develop.

In the receiving game, Breeland displayed good body control and adjustment to the ball. Unfortunately, Breeland will definitely need to work on his route tree. Most of the routes he ran were quick out routes (RPO reads), fake screen into wheel routes, and quick in, out, and curl routes. He did a good job of finding open areas in the zone, which is to expected of a seasoned player.

While I do not see Breeland ripping off 50 yard catch and runs, he has enough giddy-up to burn the defense on a play-action pass. Positively, Breeland uses his hands to catch the ball and avoids trapping it in his body. Oregon schemed Breeland open more times than he got himself open. Then, with Breeland also recovering from a torn ACL, his speed and agility could be a problem. 

In conclusion, Breeland will battle the other tight ends on the roster for that important third tight end roster spot. Breeland will need to show some ability as a special teamer for a fighting chance. 

Prediction: Breeland becomes a part of the future as he gets placed on injured-reserve so Baltimore doesn’t lose him to another team. This will allow him to heal and really compete in year two.

 

In this YouTube video from Mark Jarvis, go to the 0:52 mark and watch the down block Breeland (#27) throws down on #1 from Auburn. As an offensive line coach, this play really stood out to me. 

 

Kennesaw State FB/RB Bronson Rechsteiner

  • Height: 5’10”
  • Weight: 230 lb
  • 35 Bench Press reps at Pro Day 
  • Son of former wrestler Rick Steiner
  • 909 rushing yards, 7 TD 

If you could build a picture perfect fullback, you would have built Bronson Rechsteiner (pronounced wreck-steiner). ‘Stein” in German interprets to ‘rock’ or ‘stone.’ The picture perfect fullback has the picture perfect name. Coming from a small school in Kennesaw State, I had to rely on highlight tapes instead of his game film. 

Kennesaw State runs the Wing-T offense. Therefore, Rechsteiner was their A-back, more commonly known as the fullback or lone tailback behind the quarterback. Most of Rechsteiner’s carriers would be between the tackles. However, Rechsteiner showed breakaway speed on film, but it was against lesser competition. I would like to see the massive back run a little lower and use his strength to bowl second level defenders over. But, Rechsteiner does show some vision and instincts. In my opinion, Rechstiener could serve as RB #3 or #4 on a roster in a pinch.

Next, Rechsteiner will have to be able to block if he wants to make a roster. In the video below, you will see Rechsteiner deliver the boom as the lead blocker on different options. Rechsteiner looks for a fight and often knocked his target back, if he didn’t already decleat him. Also, Rechsteiner shows some decent hands and the ability to find the soft spot in a zone. I believe Rechsteiner will be able to moved around an offense and used as an H-back in a spread offense. 

Like all UDFA’s, special teams will be huge. In an interview with Brian McLaughlin, Rechsteiner says, “I love special teams and running down on kickoffs… I feel like this makes me a more marketable guy, that I’m ready to play whatever position.” 

Bronson Rechsteiner feels like a John Harbaugh guy. However, I feel one of Rechsteiner’s only route to the active roster is a Pat Ricard injury. Baltimore already has 4 running backs on the roster, Pat Ricard, and two tight ends. Rechstiener will have to beat out one of the running backs or earn the tight end #3 spot. 

Prediction: Rechsteiner earns a practice squad spot before being signed by another NFL team. 

YouTube video from Kennesaw State Football: #EATzone, watch Bronson Rechsteiner (#32) used as a ball carrier, lead blocker, and receiver. Its the type of highlight video that would make a small school football coach proud. 

 

Clemson IOL Sean Pollard

  • Height: 6’5″
  • Weight: 322 lbs
  • Started at RT, LG, then C
  • 3 different All-ACC awards (honorable mention (2017), second team (2018, 2019))

When turning on the film of Sean Pollard, you see a very solid player. Similar to a lot of Baltimore’s interior offensive linemen, Pollard is more size than athleticism. Pollard started as right tackle as a freshman and sophomore. As a junior, Pollard moved to left guard. Lastly, Pollard became the starting center during his senior campaign. Similarly, the Ravens covet versatile linemen. 

Pollard played 2,328 snaps over 55 games in his career, per Zach Lentz. I watched Pollard’s playoff game versus Ohio State. On film, you see a player with some highs and lows. There are a lot of snaps that Pollard shows he should not have gone undrafted. However, he also shows a lot of limitations in other snaps. Pollard has a long road ahead of him in making the Ravens’ roster, especially with two 2020 draft picks ahead of him.

In pass protection, Pollard does a good job of getting a solid frame. But, can be caught with little to no bend in his game. He appears to struggle against quick get-off defensive lineman. Especially, with linemen that have a solid move. Against Ohio State, a rip move allowed the Buckeye nose tackle to swiftly beat Pollard in a pass rush rep. While that bad rep sticks out, Pollard did a great job of standing his ground, getting his hands inside and shows a lot of patience. Pollard may struggle against the explosive athletes he will face on a regular basis. Unfortunately, the AFC North teams have a lot of talent among the interior defensive line.

Next, Pollard’s run game shows a lot of positives and negatives as well. Pollard is not an athletic speciman and it shows as he climbs to the second level. On film, Pollard is able to get to linebacker depth. However, Pollard struggles creating contact with linebackers in space and often gets caught reaching. Pollard does a sufficient job in performing his assignment in the run game, but does not create movement. In fact, there a couple reps against Ohio State where Pollard loses ground in a head-to-head base block. 

In conclusion, Pollard has some solid tools that flash. He will need to add more strength and may develop into nothing more than a versatile depth piece for an offensive line. Baltimore currently has six players ahead of Pollard at the interior offensive line. His chances of making the roster are very slim.

Prediction: Pollard gets cut early in camp and gets signed to the practice squad.

 

Utah QB Tyler Huntley

  • Height: 6’1″
  • Weight: 205 lbs
  • 2015 Florida Gatorade Player of the Year
  • 33 career starts (missed 8 due to injury)

Tyler Huntley was a fun watch. He shows that playmaker mentality and competitive spirit that makes you want to root for him. Overall, Huntley will be a developmental quarterback who will fit the Ravens’ offensive philosophy. When Huntley gets in a rhythm, he makes a lot of plays. On the other hand, Huntley shows inconsistent accuracy. 

As a passer, Tyler Huntley shows a lot of flashes. He can make passes into tight windows and often gives his receivers a chance to make a play on the ball. He can lead receivers to open areas against zone. However, crafty zone defenders can manipulate Huntley into high risk passes. Additionally, Utah was very play-action heavy, which was beneficial to Huntley’s production.

Against Oregon (1:12 mark), Huntley anticipates the safety to take the first post route, where the safety bails and intercepts a pass in the endzone. The Oregon film also shows Huntley’s accuracy issues. While Huntley makes some incredibly accurate throws, he misses easy passes. A lot of the issues with Huntley comes from late reads or locking onto his first read. 

Positively, Huntley shows a great intermediate game. He is slippery in the pocket and has great feet to escape the pocket. Huntley shows some play-making skill and is able to make something out of nothing. I think his arm strength has a limit. It may limit his ability to hit outside the numbers throws at the professional level. Huntley does a great job on passing from different platforms. Whether his feet are set or not set, he is mechanically solid enough to make the pass count.

As a dual-threat, Huntley is not near the Lamar Jackson level in terms of speed and elusiveness. Huntley has enough speed to make a defense pay for not staying in their pass rush lanes. Huntley will take on hits to get to the goalline, but shows a lack of situational awareness. Against Oregon, Huntley takes off on a run on a 3rd-and-8. He slides two yards short of the stick where he could have planted his foot, cut right and dove for the marker. On the following play (4th-and-2), Utah was stopped short. 

Wrapping Huntley up, he will not be an NFL starter. However, he can be a solid back-up quarterback in an option heavy scheme. Baltimore is a great fit for Huntley. He will be able to sit behind Jackson and Robert Griffin as he develops on the practice squad.

Prediction: Gets cut late. Signed to the practice squad. 

In this YouTube video from user SkolMitzel Cuts, Huntley shows his overall game. While Utah fell behind early, it forces Huntley to place the game in his hands.

 

Tennessee S Nigel Warrior

  • Height: 6’0″
  • Weight: 197 lbs
  • Son of former NFL All-Pro Dale Carter 
  • Named permanent team-captain after 2018 season 

Film on Nigel Warrior is not plentiful. With the little film I was able to find, Warrior became an intriguing prospect. He is a high end competitor. With every play, he looks to change the game. On interceptions, he looks to take the ball to the house. In my opinion, Warrior looks to be a balanced safety. He shoots himself out of a cannon in the run game, but has some anticipation in coverage. Unfortunately, his frame makes you weary. 

In the run game, Warrior attacks with no hesitation. In fact, for being undersized, Warrior is a decent tackler. The Tennessee product will likely start as a near the box safety. His aggression in the run game often affects his pass coverage. Warrior is caught coming down on play-action passes. 

In fact, Warrior’s aggression gets him out of position often. In pass coverage, Warrior looks to jump the pass and may make him pay. Early in his career, I find it hard for Warrior to be a back-end safety. Against Alabama, their receiver speed put Warrior in awkward positions. Warrior’s lack of top end speed likely led to him going undrafted. Additionally, Warrior’s weaknesses may be masked with a slot role for a defense. 

Warrior’s aggression and tackling will serve important as the undrafted free agent looks to make a team. Baltimore’s roster currently has 4 safety locks. Thus, means Warrior may be competing with late round pick Geno Stone for the final safety spot. 

Prediction: Stone and Warrior have a close competition throughout the offseason. The Ravens go with Stone over Warrior. Warrior is signed elsewhere for a special team role.

 

James Madison EDGE John Daka

  • Height: 6’2″
  • Weight: 227 lbs
  • 2019 FCS First Team All-American
  • 28 TFL, 16.5 sacks

The Ravens stay true to their edge preferences with the signing of John Daka. The Ravens love pass rush prospects with a history of production. Baltimore is not shy of going to all levels of college football to find edge prospects. Consequently, Daka will have to add to his frame. At a 227 pound frame, Daka will get punished in the run game. On the other hand, Daka shows the agility and bend to develop into a solid pass rusher at the next level with a lot of work.

Daka and teammate Rondell Carter formed one heck of a pass rush combo for James Madison. The positive for Daka is this led to more one-on-one rush reps which helped him to rack up the high amount of sacks. But, I do not see a role for Daka in year one, I can see him Daka developing into a solid role player. Daka relied on his quick first step and his burst to create mismatches with tackles in space. Yet, I did not see great hand use or counter moves overall. Positively, Daka has an incredible motor. 

Overall, Daka has the athletic tools, but is incredibly raw. He will need to pack on more weight and power. However, Baltimore is a great fit for him. Edge will be a huge need in 2021. Therefore, if Daka puts in the work, he could have a role on the team in the future. 

 

Prediction: Practice Squad  

Austin Sherfy
Latest posts by Austin Sherfy (see all)
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To Top
WP Twitter Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com