When the Baltimore Ravens selected cornerback Jimmy Smith 27th overall in the 2011 NFL draft, the former Colorado star was believed to be the Ravens' next shutdown corner. After nearly two years, Smith has yet to play like a first-round draft pick.
Coming out of college, the only knock on Smith was character concerns stemming from failed drug tests and alcohol-related incidents. The ultra talented cornerback was regarded by many analysts as the best cover corner in the draft.
Blessed with a rare combination of size (6'2" 212 pounds) and speed (4.46 40-yard dash) at the cornerback position, Smith was thought to be the next Chris McAlister in Baltimore. During his first two seasons, Smith has had trouble staying healthy and actually seeing the field and has only appeared in 21 of the Ravens' 30 regular-season games since being drafted.
He was forced to miss early action after a groin injury during training camp his rookie season, and the NFL lockout cost Smith additional time with the Ravens’ coaching staff.
In his NFL debut against Pittsburgh, Smith suffered an ankle injury that forced him to miss four games, and this season, Smith had to undergo groin surgery after Week 9, returning to the field for the first time this past weekend.
When on the field, the corner has been inconsistent—flashing the ability that made him a first-round pick, but then looking lost a game or even a series later. One of the main knocks on Smith is his inability to locate the football when playing his receiver. Many times he is in perfect position, but he doesn't know where the pass is and the receiver often makes a play.
In addition, Smith has had trouble identifying double moves by receivers. A prime example took place during his rookie year when the San Diego Chargers picked on him the entire game.
Despite struggling at times during his rookie season, Smith had a strong end to the regular season and played well in the playoffs—intercepting Tom Brady in the AFC Championship game. Smith finished his first year with three interceptions and eight pass deflections.
After playing well at the end of his rookie season, Smith was expected to compete for the starting corner spot opposite of Lardarius Webb. Even though the Baltimore coaching staff seemed to give Smith every chance possible to replace Cary Williams, he could not surpass Williams on the depth chart.
Again, Smith was given an opportunity to display his potential when Webb went down with a season-ending knee injury in Week 6. Replacing Webb as the starting corner, Smith started two games before injuring his groin again.
Through nine games and two starts, Smith has recorded 30 tackles, only three pass break-ups and no interceptions. After being activated this past week, Smith saw only 14 snaps and was beat by Denver’s Eric Decker for two catches. The coaching staff elected to start Corey Graham in Smith’s place.
Even though he is coming off an injury, the coaching staff’s decision to start Graham over Smith shows that the organization is losing faith in its second-year pro. With his sophomore nearly over, is it too early to label Smith a bust?
Two games are left in the regular season and a playoff ticket is booked, so Smith has at least three games to show Baltimore and its fans the potential that made him a first-round pick. If Smith does nothing over that span, his second season in the NFL will conclude as a waste, leaving us wondering if he is truly a bust.