The Baltimore Ravens used their 2011 NFL draft to fill a number of voids, both offensive and defensive, among their championship-contending roster.

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome took Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith with the 27th pick in the first round of the draft on April 28. Newsome initially attempted to trade the Ravens’ 26th overall pick with the Chicago Bears in exchange for two second-round picks, the same strategy he used during the 2010 draft.  

But the trade wasn’t finalized in time, and Baltimore ended up missing out on picking a player with the 26th pick. Under league rules, if a team goes over their allotted time to make a pick, teams below them can move quickly and take players in their original draft order until that team finally makes a selection.

Fortunately for the Ravens, only one team skipped over them and that one didn’t take Smith. Newsome didn’t hesitate to grab a prospect that, football analysts say, could be the next premiere “shutdown” cornerback in the league.

“He fits our defense the way we need a corner to fit our defense,” Ravens head coach John Harbaugh told reporters.

But despite his abundant talent, Smith also has a history of off-the field troubles that may have kept him from being selected higher in the first round. According to reports, Harbaugh pushed for the selection of Smith, ensuring Newsome there would be no off-the-field problems with Smith once he became a Raven.

“He is very committed to being a great football player,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve done our homework and he has been very forthright from the beginning as far as putting out there for the whole world to see. He is going to have to deal with that and we’re going to have to deal with that.”

At 6-foot, 2-inches and 210 pounds, Smith has the size to physically overmatch most receivers he’ll be assigned to cover in the NFL. He also has blazing speed, and ball-hawk instincts similar to star safety Ed Reed, one of the most popular players in Ravens history.

But the impact cornerback wasn’t the only player named Smith that the Ravens’ staff was proud to select in the draft.

Baltimore used its second-round pick to improve its receiver corps, drafting University of Maryland receiver Torrey Smith with the 58th overall pick. The 6-foot, 1-inch, 200-pound receiver was recorded as the fourth fastest among all receiver prospects during the NFL Combine in March. Newsome told reporters that Torrey Smith’s speed “strikes fear” in defenders and is just what the Ravens have been missing from their offensive attack.

“We play against other teams and a slip here, and it’s a touchdown. And that’s deflating,” Newsome told The Baltimore Sun. “With everything we already have, we just added the 3-point shooter. At any point, the ball gets in his hands and Billy is coming out to kick an extra point.”

Harbaugh said he’s not only impressed with Torrey’s performance on the field, but also his character off the field. A Colonial Beach, Va. native, Torrey helped raise six of his younger brothers and sisters while his single mother worked several jobs and attended classes at night.

“I was choked up reading it,” Harbaugh told the Sun. “I was so proud of this young man just reading the article. My thought was: We have to find a way to make Torrey Smith a Raven. This guy is what this organization is all about.”

Now, Baltimore will have two rookies as possible impact starters on both sides of the line of scrimmage for the first time since 1999, when the Ravens picked cornerback Chris McAlister in the first round and receiver Brandon Stokley in the fourth round. Both Stokley and McAlister went on to help Baltimore win their only Super Bowl title in 2001.
 
More Ravens’ 2011 Draft Picks:
Baltimore also selected Central Florida offensive tackle Jah Reid with the 85th overall pick in the third round; Texas cornerback Chykie Brown with the 164th pick in the fifth round; Mississippi State defensive end Pernell McPhee with the 165th pick in the fifth round; Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor with the 180th pick in the sixth round; and Georgia Tech running back Anthony Allen with the 225th pick in the seventh round.

 

Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor