Ravens' top three picks have potential, but also questions

April 30, 2011|Mike Preston

The Ravens appeared happy after the draft Saturday because the first two players they selected, cornerback Jimmy Smith and receiver Torrey Smith, were rated by them as first-round draft picks.

It appears as though the Ravens have filled their two biggest offseason needs of acquiring a physical shut-down cornerback and a speedy wide receiver that can stretch defenses.

If they reach their potential, that's great. But with training camp nearly three months away barring a continued lockout, there are still numerous concerns about the Ravens' top three picks, including Central Florida offensive tackle Jah Reid, taken in the third round Friday evening.

It's understandable why the Ravens gambled on Jimmy Smith with the No. 26 overall pick. With an aggressive defense that blitzes often, the Ravens need a corner that specializes in press coverage.

After watching and listening to Jimmy Smith the past two days, some concerns about his personal behavior have been eased. He speaks well, and his answers aren't rehearsed. He is direct, and appears to have a good sense of humor.

And he wore a suit Saturday at a news conference in Baltimore.

That's no big deal for some, but it shows that the Ravens are already working with him. His dress was far more impressive than the t-shirt he wore Friday night. Most of the other top picks appeared in suits when they were selected, but not Jimmy Smith. He wore a black t-shirt with Scarface on it, according to Smith.

The possible symbolism didn't bother me, but the outfit did. Here's a kid with public relations problems, and no one cares enough to dress him up on national TV. You can't necessarily blame the kid because he is still young, but where was the adult supervision?

Why didn't his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, advise him differently?

Jimmy Smith said Saturday that he was just trying to be comfortable and relaxed, and that's acceptable. But more importantly was the way he admitted his problems, and his belief that he should be allowed to move on.

Jimmy Smith said he has no intentions of embarrassing Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome or head coach John Harbaugh. That's loyalty, which isn't exactly a strength of America's youth these days.

"Most of the mistakes I made, or the bad decisions I made were when I was 18, 19 years old, so they were more like a maturity thing," said Smith. " I can tell them everything in the world, but if I didn't have my coaching staff backing me or people that they talked to that I don't even know they talked to, if those people said bad things then I wouldn't be here right now. So it wasn't like me just saying how it's all done, it was more like me just showing how mature I've been and putting everything out there and letting them know who I am and then them doing their research. They did a great job with it, talking with coaches and people around places in Colorado."

I want people to know I don't have any character issues. I don't want them to think I'm going to come in here and try to make this organization look bad. Those two gentlemen put their necks on the line for me, and I'm going to do everything I can to make them to look good at all times."

So unless he fouls up again, we'll attribute Jimmy Smith's problems to immaturity and expect him to contribute to the organization both on and off the field.

There is little doubt about the possible impact of Torrey Smith. The former University of Maryland star, taken in the second round, has size, runs a 4.3 40-yard dash and has big-play ability.

Combined with possession types such as Derrick Mason and Anquan Boldin, it should be hard to stop this trio, especially with Smith's ability to stretch the field.

But let's put those pom-poms down for second. We heard this last year when the Ravens signed speedy receiver Donte Stallworth. We had these same ideas about a year ago when the Ravens selected David Reed, another speedy receiver, in the fifth round out of Utah.

Here were their contributions last season to the passing game: Stallworth: two catches, 82 yards; Reed 0 catches, 0 yards.

That's why I have guarded optimism about Torrey Smith. If you have speed and don't incorporate it into the offense, is it really a weapon? There are also questions about quarterback Joe Flacco's ability to throw long. Despite ESPN's Ron Jaworski's constant chirping about Flacco being one of the best deep ball throwers in the game, Flacco has been inconsistent on long throws because he doesn't know when to throw it on the line, or put some air under his passes.

Reid could be a nice find for the Ravens. He was starting to climb up the charts when the Ravens traded with the Eagles to snatch Reid in the third round. He has great size (6 feet 7, 324 pounds) and there aren't any questions about his temperament and desire. After a year in the weight room, he could become a major force in the Ravens running game.

But the Ravens have had mixed results as far as drafting linemen in the third round. Current starting right tackle Marshal Yanda had immediate success, but Oniel Cousins, out of Texas El-Paso, hasn't shown enough consistency to work his way into the starting lineup.

Like Reid, Cousins came out of a small Division I school. Yanda played at Iowa, and his head coach — former Ravens assistant Kirk Ferentz — used to be one of the best offensive line coaches in the NFL.

Is Reid another Yanda or another Cousins?

Like most drafts, you really can't tell how they will work out for another year or two, possibly three. It appears the Ravens had a good one, but there are still a lot of questions that need to be answered.

Almost too many.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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