Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Baltimore Ravens [Print without images]

Wednesday, April 30, 2014
What Ravens can learn from 2011 draft

By Jamison Hensley

All week, the Baltimore Ravens blog will take a look at what the team can learn from each of its previous five drafts:

There is a difference between a prospect with character flaws and one who learned from past mistakes.

That's the biggest lesson from the 2011 draft, when the Ravens selected scrutinized cornerback Jimmy Smith one year after they got it wrong with pass rusher Sergio Kindle.

There was a report leading up to that draft that revealed 11 executives in the league wouldn't touch Smith because of his issues with alcohol and drugs, which included three reported failed drug tests and two arrests for underage drinking. The Ravens believed in Smith enough that they used the 27th overall pick on him.

Team officials saw unfair labels placed on a talented player who was considered a "thug" after minor trouble his first two years at Colorado before maturing and earning his degree. While it took Smith three years before he became a full-time starter, he has never been a problem off the field. In his first three seasons, Smith has proven to everyone that he's not a character risk.

The difficulty with Smith was staying healthy and playing with confidence. His career turned the corner in the Ravens' Super Bowl victory in February 2013, when he contested the San Francisco 49ers' final two passes in the end zone. Smith then earned a starting job in 2013, becoming the Ravens' top defensive back.

The biggest vote of confidence came two weeks ago, when the Ravens exercised the fifth-year option on Smith. This means the Ravens keep Smith through the 2015 season by paying him somewhere between $6.5 million and $6.9 million, the average of the 25 highest-paid players at the position, with the top three excluded.

By not buying into the perception that Smith was a risk, the Ravens have certainly been rewarded.

Here's how the Ravens' 2011 draft graded out five years later (based on production and weighted with where they were drafted):