Gerald Willis III might be the biggest surprise of the 2019 NFL Draft, and he wasn’t even drafted at all.
The Ravens continue to strengthen the leagues No. 1 defense in 2018 by signing Gerald Willis III from the University of Miami (Fla.). Willis was expected to be drafted during the mid-rounds, but some character concerns scared many teams away. However, general manager Eric DeCosta saw a gem and would not let him get away, as he was signed as an undrafted free agent shortly after the draft was over. Willis, as a freshman in 2014, played one season with the Gators before he was dismissed for several on and off-field incidents.
He transferred to the University of Miami in 2015, but due to the NCAA rules, he had to sit out the season. He played nine games in 2016 before injuring his MCL and took a leave of absence in 2017 and missed the entire season. 2018 was his only productive season with the Hurricanes as he recorded 59 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, and four sacks. Last season, he was considered one of the most productive defensive tackles in the country after earning Second-Team All-American honors from Sports Illustrated.
However, he continued to have injury issues. At the 2019 NFL Combine, he dealt with hand and groin injuries and at his pro day at Miami, he suffered a hamstring injury. With all these issues, it’s not hard to see why he was not picked up during the draft.
This organization has shown the ability to find hidden flairs and they have also shown the wisdom that allows them to find a defensive diamond in the rough. He would be a welcome addition to the front line along with Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce. According to Baltimoreravens.com, for 15 straight years, the team has signed at least one undrafted player to the 53-man roster.
Depending on how Willis is used, he could keep Williams and Pierce fresh between snaps. Standing at 6-foot-4 and weighing 302 pounds, he has the size to bring pressure from the middle. With his speed, he could drive up the middle straight line to the quarterback or he could occupy the offense to allow another defensive player to sack the quarterback.
The Ravens also drafted defensive tackle Daylon Mack from Texas A&M and defensive end Jaylen Ferguson from Louisiana Tech to help out on the front line.