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The Ravens quietly made their draft picks on day one and day two before creating a buzz with their fifth-round selection of quarterback Troy Smith. Smith, the â€˜06 Heisman Trophy winner from Ohio State, landed in Baltimore at pick No. 174.
Smithâ€™s stock plummeted following an abysmal performance in the National Championship against Florida, and a sub par series of pre-draft battery tests. This included Smithâ€™s disappointing workout at the combine, where he showed up overweight after touring various award banquets, in addition to not interviewing well with certain teams.
Leading up to the BCS Championship, Smith was widely regarded as a late first-round prospect. But there is more to Smithâ€™s stock falling like a stone than his disappointing performances following a seasonal finale victory against Michigan.
Scouts and analysts have covered Smithâ€™s lack of ideal height extensively. Smith measures at close to 6â€™0. Shorter quarterbacks have struggled to be more than spot starters or backups in the NFL. For every Pro Bowl quarterback like a Drew Brees (6â€™0) or a Michael Vick (6â€™0), there have been disappointments like Eric Crouch (6â€™0) and Jeff Blake (6â€™1).
Smith may have trouble seeing over the line and locating windows downfield. Releasing the ball wonâ€™t be as big of a problem, given that Smith uses a sound over the top delivery motion, although he will need to time his release perfectly to avoid getting his passes batted down at the line-of-scrimmage.
The bigger problem lies in Smithâ€™s decision-making skills. Often times the signal caller struggled when he was forced to operate from the pocket. He used his quickness to get outside of the tackle box and throw the ball on the run, as opposed to moving within the pocket to buy enough time to find an open throwing lane.
Against the athletic Gators, Smithâ€™s lack of pocket awareness was on display in front of the entire nation. Instead of staying patient and using his elusiveness to step into vacated holes near the line, Smith would take off running toward the sideline, where he had trouble escaping from quicker ends and backers.
In the NFL, Smith will not be able to use his athleticism every time he is looking to avoid an impending pass-rush. He will need to show poise and move within the pocket to throw the ball.
Clearly there will be times when Smith will have to use his uncanny ability to improvise when protection breaks down in front of him, and that is an asset which he brings to the table.
Smith is a terrific athlete who is tough and agile in the open field. At 225 pounds, Smith uses his compact build to bounce off of tacklers and gain yards after contact. He is also an accurate passer on the run, who has the arm strength to throw the ball even when his mechanics are thrown off.
In some ways, he has similar skills to Steve McNair. McNair was also a playmaking quarterback that looked to scramble first or make key throws out of the pocket before settling down as a pocket passer in the latter years of his career.
There is no question that given the right mentoring from an accomplished veteran like McNair, Smith could learn to use his raw physical abilities as a passer in the right way to become a more consistent passer. However, there is also a chance that Smith could fail to learn how to read the field as well as McNair did, which would hinder his ability to be more than a scrambling quarterback.
Like McNair (who sat on the bench for two years behind Chris Chandler in Houston), Smith has time to learn and develop before potentially stepping into a starting job.
If heâ€™s able to smooth out some of the rough edges in his game, he could turn into a viable option to lead Baltimore in the future. If he struggles, Smith could still be a productive backup quarterback in the league.
After all, while Smith lacks ideal size, awareness and consistency, he does possess impressive intangibles. He is a leader who has played at a high level in big games throughout his college career. In addition, in his final year as a Buckeye, Smith protected the football, throwing only six interceptions. He did what he needed to do to help his team win.
And ultimately, if Smith helps the Ravens win, heâ€™ll end up being regarded as a steal at the bottom of the fifth-round of the â€˜07 NFL draft.