Selection of Smith makes sense, but carries risk, for Ravens

Posted April 28, 2011 @ 11:58 p.m.
Posted By Mike Wilkening

The Ravens' selection of Colorado CB Jimmy Smith is intriguing on so many levels, from the footnotes on up.

For starters, the Ravens passed on the No. 26 pick, after trade talks between Chicago and Baltimore fell through at the last moment, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. The Chiefs, who held the No. 27 selection, jumped ahead of Baltimore and took Pittsburgh WR Jonathan Baldwin at No. 26.

At No. 27, the Ravens took Smith, an intriguing talent who could help their secondary in the short term and in the long term. It would not surprise me if the 6-2¼, 211-pound Smith was worked in slowly as a rookie; the Ravens have several experienced options at cornerback and do not need to rush him in. In the long term, Smith, who runs well, has long arms and possesses very good strength, has the ability to develop into a shutdown cornerback and rank as yet another late first-round steal for GM Ozzie Newsome.

However, Smith has made some questionable off-field decisions. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Tuesday that Smith failed three drug tests at Colorado. Also, he was arrested twice for underage alcohol possession. Smith, personnel analyst Nolan Nawrocki wrote in PFW's 2011 PFW Draft Preview, "(has) big-time bust potential."

In the latter stages of Round One — and with their secondary solid but vulnerable against better passing games — the Ravens' selection of Smith doesn't seem unreasonable. But it is risky. That said, strong cornerback play can propel a team to great heights — see the 2010 Packers as a great example of that — and the Ravens, who have not been to a Super Bowl since 2000, have to contend with the likes of strong passing teams like the Colts, Patriots, Steelers and Chargers in the AFC.

Smith can be a difference maker in 2011, and he can be a key part of Ravens defenses for years to come. Thursday's footnotes were interesting; now, here's his chance to write a story with a happy ending.