It was on one of the first days of training camp last week when Ravens coach John Harbaugh made this comment without prompting: This rookie class is the deepest one weve had since we have been here. Theres going to be some guys making this team that people hadnt heard of going in.
At the time, with camp just beginning and so many players littered across the practice fields at Owings Mills, it was hard to distinguish whom Harbaugh might be talking about. But its becoming clearer after more than a week of workouts.
Here are some of the candidates to continue the Ravens recent tradition (Jameel McClain, Dannell Ellerbe, LaQuan Williams) of finding undrafted rookie free agents who can contribute:
Bobby Rainey, RB, Western Kentucky
It was impossible not to notice Rainey at Tuesdays workout as he broke several long runs.
The short, quick Rainey, who rushed for over 4,500 yards in college, looks and runs so much like Ray Rice that he could probably play the double in a movie. His size kept him from being drafted, but like Rice, he just has that play-making knack.
Bobby has opened eyes. Bobby Rainey is a really good player, Harbaugh said. It just holds true year-in and year-out, the guys who are most productive in college, often and most times, are the most productive guys in the NFL. And here is a guy that people wanted to say didnt have this or that, but he did have about 4,000-plus yards in college. He is putting yards up out here.
Deonte Thompson, WR, Florida
The speedy wideout started making plays in OTAs and never really stopped. The inconsistency that knocked him out of the draft reared itself when he dropped a couple of balls in a practice last week, but he continues to stabd out.
He has done a good job, receivers coach Jim Hostler said. For a guy that was pretty much off the street coming in, hes done very well. He had some questions about how well he caught the ball. Was he going to be able to transition that to this level? And hes done great. Its been outstanding. Hes a football player. He understands fundamentals. He understands football. He can play fast. He has done a really outstanding job so far. His (issue) is going to be can he carry that over time?
Nigel Carr, LB, Florida State
Another guy that is impossible not to notice, as he is one of the loudest, most forceful players on the practice field unusual for a rookie.
Nigel is one of those guys that absolutely has a burning passion for this game, linebackers coach Ted Monachino said. He is attentive to detail in everything he does. Hes an over communicator, which is huge. At that position to be a mute is a problem. Nigel is an over communicator and thats great.
Jack Cornell, OL, Illinois
He burst out of obscurity when he earned snaps with the starters in the wake of Bryant McKinnies absence. Then Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti outed him in a radio interview as a favorite of GM Ozzie Newsome's.
Cornell faces tough odds, just like the others, but the Ravens are looking for offensive line depth.