Back in April, after the Ravens had just drafted DeAngelo Tyson to round out their eight-player class, assistant general manager Eric DeCosta mentioned that there were only three players remaining on their 150-player draft board. In past years, they typically would have between 20 and 25 prospects on their board, and many of those were the players they would attempt to sign as undrafted rookie free agents. "This year, our free agents -- the real quality players -- seemed to have dried up," DeCosta said at the time. But despite any discouragement they may have felt that evening, the Ravens were able to piece together a pretty impressive class of rookie free agents. One of them has already made the 53-man roster, though most kickers follow the same route that Justin Tucker has taken to the NFL. Two others, speedy wide receiver Deonte Thompson (above) and shifty running back Bobby Rainey, are strong candidates to join him after each had a productive preseason. And three more are also competing for some of the final roster spots, including safety Omar Brown, inside linebacker Nigel Carr and offensive lineman Jack Cornell. Brown is the best bet out of that trio after injuries to safeties Emanuel Cook and Sean Considine. I'm not sure if it's a good thing or a bad thing that so many undrafted rookies are in the mix to make the team, but given their track record when it comes to this -- their finds include current players Jameel McClain, Albert McClellan and LaQuan Williams -- I'll go with the former. After all, no matter where it comes from, talent usually shines through. Especially out at the Castle. Thompson outperformed fellow rookie Tommy Streeter, who was a sixth-round draft pick, and second-year wide receiver Tandon Doss, who battled a hamstring issue throughout training camp. The knock on Tjompson coming out of Florida was that he was a practice player, but he outran that notion in the preseason, catching 10 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns. Among his six catches for 68 yards against the St. Louis Rams was a one-armed chain-moving catch on third down and a tumbling grab in the end zone. Thompson has impressed as a returner as well. Meanwhile, Rainey, who hasn't gotten much traction as a runner (more on that later), added four more catches for 42 yards. His stature, his ability catch to passes out of the backfield and his penchant for making defenders miss in space -- like we saw on his two receiving touchdowns this preseason -- has drawn comparisons to Ray Rice. He appears to have the edge over Anthony Allen and Damien Berry, but Berry, who was signed as a rookie free agent in 2011, finished the preseason strong with 50 yards total in the past two games on 10 carries. Like Bart Scott, Priest Holmes and Mike Flynn did years ago, Thompson and Rainey have come out of nowhere to earn their way onto a 53-man roster. We will see if it's the Ravens' roster.
Jeff Curry, US PRESSWIRE
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