Undrafted rookies always face long odds in their quest to make the Ravens' 53-man roster, and this year the task seems more daunting than ever. With the entire starting defense returning, a franchise record-tying 12 draft picks being selected in April, and with a healthy start to training camp, the opening for any undrafted rookie would seem as narrow as ever.
But if history is any guide, it will happen. The Ravens have had at least one undrafted rookie make its Week 1 roster 14 years in a row, tied for the second-longest such streak in the league.
In recent years, those signed by the Ravens as undrafted rookies who made the initial 53-man roster have included kicker Justin Tucker, linebacker Zach Orr and defensive tackle Michael Pierce. Last season, three players did so: linebacker Bam Bradley, cornerback Jaylen Hill and fullback/defensive lineman Patrick Ricard.
With three preseason games left to state their case, here are three undrafted rookies who could be on the right side of the bubble when the 53-man roster is set:
ILB Chris Board
Board, out of Football Championship Subdivision power North Dakota State, is looking to become the latest in a long line of undrafted inside linebackers to make the team. He doesn't have to look far for role models. Ravens linebackers Albert McClellan, Patrick Onwuasor and Bam Bradley have traveled that route, as did former Ravens linebackers and current team employees Jameel McClain and Zach Orr. Former Ravens Bart Scott and Dannell Ellerbe were also undrafted free agents.
Through two preseason games, Board leads the Ravens defense in tackles with 10. Perhaps more significant in his quest to make the team, he has played a team-high 36 special-teams snaps with two tackles.
The 6-foot-2, 229-pound Orlando native showed his athleticism with a leaping end-zone interception in practice earlier this week, and considering the Ravens' lack of depth at inside linebacker, there is an opening here.
WR-RS Janarion Grant
Grant, who was signed to the Ravens' 90-man roster after trying out at rookie minicamp, finished with eight return touchdowns at Rutgers (five kickoff, three punt), tying the NCAA record. The record-holder for kickoff return yardage at Rutgers, Grant appears to be competing with Tim White -- undrafted last year -- for the starting return specialist job.
Grant has averaged 24 yards on three kickoff returns during preseason action and has netted minus-1 yard on three punt returns.
Grant drew the ire of special teams coach Jerry Rosburg for a taunting penalty Grant drew during joint practices with the Rams, but that came after a punt return that featured a dazzling cutback and would have gone for a touchdown without the penalty. Two days later, Grant handled all the return work in the preseason game against the Rams, suggesting that Rosburg had forgiven the transgression.
Grant also had an expanded role on offense against the Rams, playing 25 snaps with the second group of receivers and finishing with two catches for 32 yards.
RB Gus Edwards
Edwards has been the biggest beneficiary of running back Kenneth Dixon's nagging injury, as Edwards has been the de facto No. 3 running back during training camp. Edwards leads the Ravens in rushing through two preseason games with 22 carries for 93 yards, and he has demonstrated a physical, hard running style to complement Alex Collins and Buck Allen.
Dixon is expected to play against the Colts Aug. 20, but his unavailability this summer, and Edwards' emergence, has put both of them on the roster bubble.
Edwards played three seasons for the University of Miami before transferring to Rutgers for one season as a graduate student. He led the Scarlet Knights with 164 carries for 713 yards and six touchdowns in 2017.
"I'm just taking my reps and trying to make the most out of it," Edwards said after the Rams game, during which he rushed 12 times for 58 yards. "At the end of the day, it's on the coaches."
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox