Now that we are more than a week out of the draft and the undrafted free agents have signed, we have a pretty good look at the possible roster combinations. For the talent that was added with the team’s nine picks, the draft grades were ranging anywhere from the C-range to the A-range, and this is mostly due to analysts’ personal opinions about the best player available strategy. There is something inherently questionable about passing on a player of need, and we don’t have the privilege of sitting in the draft room to look at the all-mighty big board. As a result, the journalists’ minds start to wander and there are naturally questions that arise.
One of the benefits of running a top notch organization — one that, over history, has given undrafted free agents fighting chances — is that when it comes time to sign the guys that slipped past Mr. Irrelevant, there is a natural and legitimate interest from both sides. Bart Scott, Will Demps, Dannell Ellerbe, Priest Holmes — these are just a few players who turned into starters in the NFL after signing with the Ravens.
So, the biggest critique of the draft was the fact that the team appeared to glaze over the hole at right tackle. Even though Osemele has the versatility to make these arguments moot, when the team publicly states a preference for a player at one position (KO at guard, in this case), and then doesn’t seem to address the issue to make that scenario a reality, they will fall under scrutiny.
This is why those critics need to keep looking.
The Ravens signed James Hurst as an undrafted free agent from the University of North Carolina. Hurst was a blue-chip recruit out of high school and started all four years as a Tarheel, earning third-team preseason All-American honors heading into his senior year in Chapel Hill. At 6-foot-5, 305-pounds, Hurst’s size is definitely more than adequate, however the thing that makes him stand out most is his feet. Had it not been for a broken leg during the oh-so prestigious Belk Bowl, many had Hurst pegged for a day two pick.
So for all of the people chastising the front office for an apparent lack of attention paid to the offensive line, you need to look at the bigger picture. The way that people are talking about Hurst at minicamp, it seems like he will not only compete for a roster spot, but he could even make a push for the starting right tackle position. It seems that his broken leg is all healed, and he has participated in 100% of the rookie minicamps.
Here’s what Harbaugh had to say about Hurst: ”
Of course, 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.”
That sounds like a player that probably should have been drafted. And there were reportedly 17 teams vying for his services on the undrafted market. This only further illustrates the Ravens’ ability to sway the players who were snubbed for seven rounds. But it was also probably a factor where Hurst identified an opportunity in a quality franchise.
However you cut it, the Ravens signed three undrafted rookie tackles to inject some competition. Plus, they recently announced signing former Jacksonville Jaguars starting offensive guard, Will Rackley. Although Rackley has received mostly negative grades for his play in the Jaguars offense, the Ravens saw something they deemed worthy and he will now enter the fold to compete for that one open slot on the offensive line.
For all the talk about Kelechi Osemele being versatile, it seems as though the Ravens actions are backing those sentiments. There appears to be as many as six offensive lineman competing for the one open spot. Generally speaking, whoever rises out of that group should be pretty damn battle tested.
The Ravens undoubtedly put themselves in position to address their issues, and with the amount of talent brought in, it is more than likely somebody will seize the opportunity. The grade isn’t higher because it appears the Ravens will move forward with a player who is relatively inexperienced.