There was some tension in Radio City Music Hall when the Baltimore Ravens allowed time to expire during their 26th selection in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. The Ravens were looking to slide down to the 29th spot in a trade with the Chicago Bears, but the trade never materialized and the Kansas City Chiefs leapfrogged the Ravens, moving Baltimore to the Chiefs' original spot at No. 27.
In the end, however, none of the confusion mattered, as Baltimore snagged their cornerback of the future—the University of Colorado’s Jimmy Smith.
Smith has a rare combination of amazing size and speed for a corner, measuring 6'2" and weighing in at 211 pounds. These personal attributes will undoubtedly help a Ravens secondary known for its lack of size and physicality.
Smith gained popularity in college for being the complete package—a player who can be inserted on any down, all while making opposing receivers a complete non-factor in most situations.
Smith is truly a shutdown corner in every sense of the word. During his senior year at Colorado, Smith was only targeted 20 times by opposing quarterbacks, and over the course of his junior and senior years, allowed a grand total of 11 completions in man-to-man coverage schemes.
The last player to take the field for the Ravens that possessed similar talents was CB Chris McAlister, whose contract was terminated by the team back in February of 2009. Since McAlister’s departure for the New Orleans Saints and eventually free agency, the Ravens have struggled mightily to find a suitable replacement for the Pro Bowl-studded McAlister.
Smith, who has been compared to Oakland Raiders CB Nnamdi Asomugha throughout many NFL news outlets, will almost certainly exceed the expectations of fans and front office alike in Baltimore for many years to come.
There has been some negative press about Smith’s minor off-field issues involving marijuana use while attending the University of Colorado. However, it’s nothing the Ravens locker room can’t address, given how morally strong the players in the Ravens locker room are.
Overall, the Ravens got a steal of a pick in Jimmy Smith, who could have easily landed somewhere in the first 10 picks of the draft, but due to some minor character flaws, wound up falling to Baltimore at No. 27.
There will be critics in the coming days who will say the Ravens should’ve pursued a pass rusher over a cornerback. While there is some validity to this argument, the fact is talented defensive ends will be available in later rounds of the draft.
After all, Baltimore’s secondary was a big liability for the team last year and in several years prior to the 2010 season. With that said, the selection of Jimmy Smith late in the first round was a smart, well thought out move by GM Ozzie Newsome and the rest of the Ravens war room.
In order to continue to have a successful draft, the Ravens must target a top wide receiver such as Maryland’s Torrey Smith in Round 2 of the NFL Draft. If Smith isn’t available, the next best option will suffice.
QB Joe Flacco hasn’t exactly been too happy with the team over the past few months, so it’s exponentially important for the Ravens front office to keep Flacco happy by adding a top-flight receiver through this year’s draft.
Baltimore Ravens Draft Grade (Round 1): A
Stay tuned for more Ravens draft coverage and analysis, as we rate each and every pick the Ravens make in the 2011 NFL Draft!
Todd McGregor is a Baltimore Ravens Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.
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