For a while Jimmy Smith's draft stock was falling like a rock in water over concerns about his personality, maturity and ability to apply himself (and stay out of trouble). There were concerns that he was simply not worthy of being a first-round pick because guys like Kipper and Mayock have him graded with higher bust potential than other CBs in the draft.
All that changed though when Smith visited Detroit two weeks ago, and (the Wizard) Lions GM Martin Mayhew had a chance to sit down and talk face to face with the young prospect from Colorado. Mayhew, a former NFL cornerback himself, knows what it takes to be an elite corner in the NFL. Corners are different than many other positions when it comes to mentality because a good corner has a certain swagger, a certain confidence that you simply cannot teach. Smith has it, and Mayhew knows it.
Mayhew is also good friends with arguably the best corner to ever play the game of football in Deion Sanders. Something interesting about this, is that Deion had that “swagger” too. It was exactly the reason that many fans loved to hate neon-Deion Sanders.
Physically speaking, Jimmy Smith has some of the best measurable traits of any of the corners in the 2011 draft. At Colorado‘s pro day he weighed in at 211 and ran a 4.38, making him bigger than every corner except Patrick Peterson, and one of the fastest NFL players. Some draft boards even have Smith rated above Prince Amukamara because of his size/speed combination.
The most important factor here though is not size, speed or measurable traits. The most important factor is how comfortable the Detroit Lions coaching staff is taking Jimmy Smith in the first round. We can glean a little insight into the opinions Mayhew told the Detroit Free Press about Smith based on his comments after meeting with him a couple weeks:
“I think (Smith's) a guy that’s made some mistakes and that seems to now realize the mistakes that he made,” Mayhew said. “I think he’s a young guy that’s very talented, or we wouldn’t even be talking to him. He’s got a really good skill level, he’s got size and he’s got speed, and you look at our corners, and we don’t really have a corner with size. So that’s always appealing. He’s an interesting guy."
What we are talking about here is the fit the Lions really need. A corner with the size and speed and man-to-man coverage skills to truly shut down the best wide receivers in the NFL. Based on these factors alone (and ignoring personal history issues), Smith is arguably a better fit than even Prince Amukamara, though if Amukamara falls to the Lions at No. 13 he will absolutely be wearing blue and silver in 2011.
Watch his interview at the combine to see his own take on his maturity, skills and abilities.
Other possibilities: CB Prince Amukamara, OT Tyron Smith