- Patrick Peterson was clearly the “safer” corner, with the most consistent talent and overwhelming size.
- Smith has more “potential” talent than any other corner in this class.
- The Ravens needed severe help in the secondary.
- If “off-field issues” weren’t a concern, Smith is a top-10 talent.
Now that all the draft cards have been handed in, hands have been shaken, and mommas have been hugged, let’s take an in-depth look at the newest member of the Raven defense.
Physical Makeup: At 6’2″, 211 lbs. Smith cuts an imposing figure compared even to Ravens great Chris McAlister. Smith’s 4.46 40-yard dash show his excellent top-end speed for his size (by comparison, McAlister ran a 4.53 at 6’1″, 205. Some have observed “stiffness” in Smith’s breaks to the ball due to his large frame. In other words, Smith is a once-in-a-half-decade physical talent. He has also displayed consistent durability, never missing a game since gaining a starting job as a sophomore and was kept off the field for only two games in his college career due to injury.
Character Makeup: There are certainly varying levels of character concerns when it comes to NFL prospects. Many felt that Dez Bryant was unfairly shackled with the “character” tag going into last year’s draft after missing a season due to lying to the NCAA about his relationship with Deion Sanders. At the time, I felt that Bryant was going to be a steal for someone who realized that those “character issues” didn’t really translate to the NFL. Well, that’s why NFL execs get to interview players and I don’t. Seems like Mr. Jones got more than he bargained for in Bryant.
There are also the LeGarrette Blounts of the world, who are saddled with the “character issues” tag because of trivial stuff like sucker-punching an opposing player on national television. Blount rushed for 1,007 yards on 201 carries for Tampa as a undrafted free agent in 2010.
And so we come to Jimmy Smith. Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel provided the best rundown of Smith’s character issues. To be more specific, here is the scorecard: three failed drug tests, two alcohol violations, two abortions, a 3rd-degree assault arrest, and a partridge in a pear tree. To be honest, that’s a lot of crime in a very short amount of time. The comment many a fan and pundit alike have made has been “Ray and Ed will straighten him out.” Maybe so, but Ray and Ed will not be around forever. The truth of the matter is that Smith needs to learn how to be a bad man on the field and a good one off it. Not an easy task.
When you watch film of Smith, two things jump out at you right away. First, he absolutely loves to hit. Second, he has a nose for the ball, similar to Ed Reed. Just watch this. Because of his physicality, Smith is best suited jamming receivers at the line and playing man-to-man. Smith allowed just 11 completions in man coverage over his junior and senior seasons (just one of those for a first down). Smith lined up primarily is a right cornerback at Colorado, and will have to display more versatility in the NFL. The Ravens 3-4 set uses a mix of man and zone coverage, and the big corner will have to be economical in his movements in order to support both underneath and outside of the safeties.
On Thursday night, Smith also gained a new foe within the division when the Bengals selected A.J. Green at no. 4 overall. Colorado played Georgia in October of this year, and Green had a monster game. Just look at the first minute of this video. However, you’ll notice that ALL of Green’s big plays, including his two TDs are up the offense’s right side, away from Smith. That’s Jalil Brown (#23) you see being abused by Green. When Georgia, did try and slide Green over it Smith’s side, #3 does a nice job breaking up a touchdown for Green, at 0:17 here.
Blaine Gabbert, quarterback from Missouri, also found a new home in the first round, taken by Jacksonville. Here we get a great package of clips from Missouri’s beat down of Colorado in 2009. While Smith was a junior when this game occurred, I think it exemplifies both his strengths and his weaknesses. You see a pick, a lot of nice breakups, and several tackles that show great timing. You also see two very silly penalties, and a tendency to come in soft and tackle high after a big gain on the ground (or on the fake field goal, where Smith absolutely gives up).
At the 26 spot (which became 27 after a botched trade with Chicago), the Ravens could not have done better than Smith. What they could’ve done, and many argue should have, is work a deal to move down to the second round, where taking a rush linebacker would’ve been more appropriate with the group remaining, and address the corner position later with a player like Texas’ Aaron Williams. Overall, the risk of this pick was not as great as some have emphasized. As easy as it is to say, trades are never a given, and it can be challenging to move down in the draft (as we learned on Thursday). There was no obvious alternative to Smith on the board at that time, Da’Quan Bowers being hampered by injury and Mark Ingram not an option with Ray Rice locked in as the team’s future at tailback. The biggest factor for Smith’s development may rest in the courts, and not in the way you’re thinking. The sooner the players are allowed to go to work, the sooner Smith can be signed. The sooner he is signed, the sooner he comes into the Ravens fold and is held to the expectations set forth for him. Until then, Smith, the Baltimore Ravens, and football, all sit idly in these days of uncertainty.