Brandon Williams remembers what it was like, that agonizing wait for his name to be called in the NFL Draft.
That wait begins Thursday night for hundreds of this year’s draft hopefuls, anxious to hear if theirs is one of the 256 names called between Thursday night and Saturday.
For players such as Williams, who played well below the national radar at a lower-division school, it can be particularly agonizing. Will the fact that he didn’t play big-time college football hurt his stock? Did scouts see enough of him to notice?
In Williams case, the obvious answer was yes. The Ravens selected Williams, from Missouri Southern State, in the third round of the 2013 draft. He was the first player taken that year from outside Division I.
“They were definitely at my school a lot,” Williams said during a break in the team’s offseason conditioning program last week as he recounted his own draft experience. He mentioned that Ravens regional scout Jack Glowik was a frequent visitor, so Williams knew he was on the Ravens radar.
“But you never know until your name gets called,” he said.
Assistant general manager Eric DeCosta has said that Williams served notice with his workouts at the Senior Bowl, as he held his own in one-on-one battles with some of the top offensive linemen in the Big Ten and other so-called power conferences.
“I feel like I did the right things to get picked when I needed to be, especially coming from a D-II school,” Williams said. “I knew I had to give it my all.”
The Ravens have shown they won’t hesitate to look beyond the bright lights of Division I-A football for talent. In addition to Williams, in the past decade they have drafted Joe Flacco (Delaware), Lardarius Webb (Nicholls State), Asa Jackson (Cal-Poly), Kyle Juszczyk (Harvard), Ryan Jensen (Colo. State-Pueblo) and Lorenzo Taliafererro (Coastal Carolina), among others, from outside the so-called power conferences.
The cream of this year’s small-school crop is considered to be offensive lineman Ali Marpet from Hobart, who projects as a center or guard. Whether he lands with the Ravens remains to be seen, but don’t be surprised to see the Ravens dip down below Division I again.
““It’s a pretty good crop of (small-school) guys,” DeCosta said. “I don’t want to tip my hand yet with these small-school guys because there’s definitely a few guys that we like.”