For the most part, the 2011 NFL Combine was as advertised when it came to player performances. There were a few surprises and disappointments at every position, but the overall talent and workout results in this year’s group of NFL prospects far exceeded that of last year’s combine participants.
With the defensive backs set to perform this afternoon as the last group of players in the 2011 NFL Combine, most organizations are completing their draft boards and getting a better feel for who they want to target when the NFL Draft rolls around in April.
The Baltimore Ravens are a team who has clear-cut needs at several different positions as they enter the 2011 NFL season. One area of the roster that needs immediate attention is the wide receiving corps. Despite some early success last year, the unit of aging players failed to click as the season progressed.
Part of the problem the Ravens had at the wide receiver position in 2010 was the lack of a true deep threat on the field. To make matters worse, players like Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh have nearly identical attributes—all being very good possession receivers, but fail when it comes to stretching the field.
However, the Ravens need more than good possession receivers in order to stretch opposing defenses, and to provide QB Joe Flacco with more options downfield. Luckily, for the Ravens, this year’s draft includes a local prospect that should make for a perfect fit in an offense that’s starting to reach the next level.
University of Maryland WR Torrey Smith is an athlete who's often mentioned in the same sentence as the Baltimore Ravens, and many analysts are reporting on the high level of interest the Baltimore front office has in pursuing Smith as the 26th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Smith is the complete package who always poses a threat to score on both offense and special teams—the type of player the Ravens have never managed to land in Baltimore.
Smith’s 4.43 40-yard dash time is impressive and ranks near the top of all receivers who participated in the Combine. More importantly, Smith’s burst off the line and ability to get into open space will prove invaluable when facing teams who play a lot of press coverage.
Smith needs improvement when it comes to running simple underneath routes and finding open pockets in zone coverage, but these problem areas should be a quick fix, thanks to Smith’s amazing work ethic.
Most of Smith’s strong work ethic comes from a rough childhood upbringing. At a very early age, Smith was forced to take care of his three younger brothers while his 19-year-old mother Monica worked several jobs. Smith would often feed and clothe his younger siblings at the ripe age of four, making sure everyone was ready for school in the morning.
Smith managed to stay strong amid domestic violence that was usually present in the household. Smith never skipped school and veered away from trouble with the law.
Smith’s own life experiences, which are full of obstacles and hardships, has made him the man he is today—a person who has high moral standards and a flawless character—exactly the type of person who would fit perfectly into the Ravens system.
The likelihood of Baltimore selecting Smith with the 26th pick in the first round of the draft is high. Receivers like A.J. Green and Julio Jones will almost certainly disappear from the board within the first 10 picks of the draft, so Torrey Smith is easily the next best option for the Ravens.
Some would argue that Baltimore should target a linebacker or defensive back with their first pick, but it was the Ravens offense that was the biggest disappointment during the 2010 season, and adding a deep-threat receiver to Flacco’s arsenal is essential to the growth of Baltimore’s star signal-caller.
The bottom line is Smith has much more upside than he does deficiencies. Sure, Smith can improve on his pass-catching and route-running abilities, but those inherent “problems” usually disappear with time and practice.
While it’s hard to tell how Smith’s 2010 college stats from Maryland (67 catches, 1,055 yards and 12 TD’s) will translate into NFL production, one thing is undeniable: Torrey Smith is exactly the type of football player the Ravens need in order to move to the next level in 2011.
Todd McGregor is a Baltimore Ravens Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.
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