When the Baltimore Ravens selected Jimmy Smith with the 27th pick of the 2011 NFL Draft, the “experts” all echoed the same response to the choice of Ozzie Newsome.
The Ravens didn’t back down and they appeared comfortable with their selection.
The scouts did their homework and when they finished running Smith through the interviewing ringer, they believed he, like many athletes with checkered pasts, ran in the wrong circles. They also believed that Smith had matured over the years since his teenaged infractions.
And so when the Ravens were on the clock, the card they turned in read, “Jimmy Smith, CB, University of Colorado.”
Since his arrival, there hasn’t been even the first hint of character issues with Smith. All of the so-called red flags waved more regularly by NFL draft junkies than Ray Rice waves the green flag, have been tucked away. The anticipated off-the-field noise has been stone cold silent.
Queue up the crickets.
Unfortunately for the Ravens, Smith’s on the field contributions have been nearly as silent.
Since their inception the Ravens have used a first round pick on a defender 8 times. Four have been starters on opening day (Ray Lewis, Peter Boulware, Ed Reed and Haloti Ngata); three would eventually become starters during their rookie seasons (Duane Starks, Chris McAlister and Terrell Suggs); only one has failed to lock down a permanent starting job by his second season – Jimmy Smith.
Not until Lardarius Webb went down with a torn ACL finishing his 2012 season did Smith step into a full-time starting gig. He couldn’t even bump the struggling former 7th round selection of the Titans in 2008, Cary Williams, from the starting lineup.
And you have to wonder why.
No one doubts Smith’s measurable – all his physical tools to be a shut down corner. Yet his technique is questioned. He’s an inviting target for opposing quarterbacks. His bites on double moves are as predictable as another court date for Lindsay Lohan. Despite not being a starter for most of the season he is the second most penalized defensive back in the league.
Does he study film?
Does he love the game?
Is he accepting of advice from the coaches?
Is he dependable enough?
His performances to date will invite more attacks in the games ahead, particularly with Messrs. Roethlisberger, Rivers, Dalton and the Manning brothers ahead on the schedule.
We hear time and again that the talent is there to answer those calls.
But is the commitment?
The next 2+ months should tell us a lot about this underachieving corner.