Tag Archive | "Eric Decosta"

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Big picture takes priority in draft over immediate needs for Ravens

Posted on 23 April 2012 by Luke Jones

In summing up the phenomenon that has become the NFL Draft over the years, former Ravens coach Brian Billick’s introductory mantra for teams drafting a quarterback is more than fitting in describing the entire event.

Nobody knows anything.

Of course, the phrase is hyperbole when considering the individuals — such as the ones residing at 1 Winning Drive in Owings Mills — who have proven time and time again they mostly know what they’re doing. Still, other organizations over the years — the franchise down the road in Landover comes to mind — have either used their picks as blind shots at a dartboard or, even worse, sold them away for deteriorating veteran pieces for the short term that often leave their franchises in football purgatory.

While everyone hopes to discover the winning Powerball ticket, there is just as much anxiety about uncovering the kind of skunk that can get the head coach, general manager, and scouting department fired. After four months of mock drafts, 40 times, pro days, and the assembling of draft boards, we’ll finally get our first look at the hand each of the 32 teams is holding this weekend.

And, even then, the same will hold true for everyone after the 253rd pick is turned in Saturday evening: we won’t really know for a few more years.

For the Ravens, we all know the philosophy and can recite it by heart. It’s all about the “best player available” and staying true to their draft board. However, they arguably have their most glaring need — the left guard position — since drafting Joe Flacco as their badly-needed franchise quarterback in 2008.

Whether you believe second-year tackle Jah Reid can successfully make the transition to left guard or not, it doesn’t take a fortune-teller to predict loud concern among fans should the Ravens walk away without an interior lineman in the first couple rounds of the draft. Even if that scenario plays out, a look at recent history reminds us how essential it is to allow the results to play out.

In 2008, the second-round selection of Rutgers running back Ray Rice appeared curious after the Ravens had just forked over multiple draft picks and a hefty contract to Willis McGahee the year before. Of course, Rice soon became a Pro Bowl running back while McGahee drifted to a backup role before ultimately being shown the door last year.

And with the benefit of hindsight and the surprising emergence of Lardarius Webb and Cary Williams last season, would the Ravens have still selected cornerback Jimmy Smith with the 27th overall pick in 2011 or perhaps traded out of the spot to address another area?

Could the Ravens pass on selecting a guard and watch Reid blossom into an above-average guard?

You never know what the future holds, making it even more critical to choose the player you envision to be the best over the next four or five years and not just one who can help immediately in 2012.

The consensus choice among experts’ mock drafts is Wisconsin center Peter Konz, who makes perfect sense on paper because of the perceived ability of Konz to shift over to left guard for a season before taking over for veteran Matt Birk, whose three-year contract is essentially structured to be a one-year deal. Konz would certainly address the Ravens’ most immediate need, but will he ultimately be the best player available when thinking about the next four or five seasons?

The Ravens have lacked a tall, impact receiver since the early years of the franchise, making it difficult to pass on a raw talent with major upside such as Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill at the end of the first round. As WNST.net’s Glenn Clark pointed out, there is value at wide receiver in the second and third rounds, but does make you turn away from Hill and toward another position, even if you’re confident he becomes a premier receiver over the next five years?

Other than perhaps quarterback and cornerback, the Ravens could stand to benefit from adding premium talent at any position. In the unlikely scenario that a left tackle prospect such as Riley Reiff of Iowa or Stanford’s Jonathan Martin becomes available — and assuming the Ravens’ brass grade out the given player as favorably as the experts do — Baltimore shouldn’t think twice about drafting its left tackle of the future, even if it means he sits on the bench for a year behind Bryant McKinnie and is unable to spend a cameo season at guard. The same holds true if Alabama’s Mark Barron slides down the draft board, even though the Ravens appear set at safety this season with Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard under contract.

The NFL Draft is about building franchises for the long haul, not plugging holes for that coming fall. You weigh the merits of perceived “safer” picks such as Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler who might have a lower ceiling against the potential rewards of drafting an upside player like Hill who possesses a higher bust rate.

If you’re confident that safe pick will blossom into a Pro Bowl player, you take him like the Ravens did with Ben Grubbs in 2007. But there are other times where rolling the dice — within reason — is the best move if you’ve done your homework and are confident in your coaching staff and the young man in which you’re investing.

The good news is Ozzie Newsome, Eric DeCosta, and Joe Hortiz know these lessons as well as any talent evaluators in the league.

Whether their first-round selection falls in line with an immediate need such as guard or wide receiver or is more of a long-term consideration like left tackle, inside linebacker, or safety, the Ravens are looking beyond next season when they turn in their card on Thursday night. It’s not just about 2012 and trying to move the Ravens one step further than they went last year; it’s finding the player who will put them in the best position to win over the next five years.

You never truly know whether it’s going to work out or not, but keeping the big picture in focus will keep you pointed in the right direction.

It’s not always what the fans want and it may leave them scratching their heads and groaning about the results on draft day, but you’re ultimately making the choice based on the cheers you expect to hear over the next several years.

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Biggest needs remain unchanged as Ravens inch closer to draft

Posted on 04 April 2012 by Luke Jones

At the Ravens’ season-ending press conference two months ago, general manager Ozzie Newsome stated his team’s most glaring needs entering the offseason.

The Ravens have boosted their special teams and retained center Matt Birk and inside linebacker Jameel McClain in free agency, but limited cap space has hindered their ability to make improvements in other areas. As a result, the organization will rely on the avenue in which they’ve thrived over the last 16 years — the draft — to make improvements at the positions Newsome and the front office referenced in early February.

“I don’t think that has changed much from the end of the season,” Newsome said. “We need to add some players on the offensive line. We can add another receiver. We still feel that we can add some depth at the pass-rush position or at SAM ‘backer.”

With Pro Bowl left guard Ben Grubbs signing a five-year contract to join the New Orleans Saints, the Ravens have a huge hole on the offensive line they will desperately try to address in the early rounds. While coach John Harbaugh has expressed optimism that second-year tackle Jah Reid can make the transition to the inside, a viable competitor for the position is a necessity in trying to replace the team’s best offensive lineman.

Director of player personnel Eric DeCosta offered no surprises in assessing the top interior lineman in the draft, mentioning Stanford’s David DeCastro, Kevin Zeitler and Peter Konz of Wisconsins, and Georgia’s Cordy Glenn. DeCosta praised Glenn’s ability to play multiple positions on the line, but his comments were lukewarm when asked about Konz’s potential to be moved from his normal center position to guard as some have suggested with Birk back at center for 2012.

Of the aforementioned names, the Ravens are unlikely to have each at their disposal with the 29th overall pick, but they remain confident in their ability to land a quality offensive line prospect in the first few rounds.

“I think we have players in every round that we like,” DeCosta said. “One of the things we try to do is ascertain the value, league-wise, and then look at our value, how we value players. And usually, there’s a match there for us. At any point in any round we have a couple of players to choose from in any given position, for sure.”

Though not as pressing as left guard, wide receiver is another position at which the Ravens would like to add depth behind starters Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith. A speedy receiver with size would bring more diversity to the passing game and provide another red-zone target for quarterback Joe Flacco.

Georgia Tech wideout Stephen Hill has stolen draft-season headlines with impressive workouts, ideal height (6-feet-4), and a 4.33-second 40 time even though his college production was underwhelming in a run-first offensive attack. His measurables have propelled his draft stock as high as the second half of the first round, according to some prognosticators.

“He’s an explosive guy who plays in that triple-option offense and really jumped off the film in terms of vertical speed,” director of college scouting Joe Hortiz said. “He’s raw, like a lot of guys are who have come out of that offense, [like] Demaryius Thomas. Their route polish isn’t quite there, but his athletic traits are really outstanding and exceptional, rare for the position.”

The Ravens will also look at versatile wide receivers who can add to the return game, an area in which they struggled in 2011. Coach John Harbaugh admitted in a perfect world he would like to have a backup handle punt return duties rather than starting cornerback Lardarius Webb but would not go as far as saying he won’t return punts in 2012.

With the departures of backups Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura via free agency and starters Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard entering the final year of their respective contracts, safety is a position at which the Ravens need to add depth as well as potentially search for long-term solutions.

Alabama’s Mark Barron is the consensus top safety in the draft, but it’s unlikely he’ll be on the board by the time the Ravens pick in the first round. Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith might be a more realistic option at the end of the first round or early in the second if the Ravens would choose to trade back.

“Harrison Smith is an interesting guy, too,” DeCosta said. “He’s a big, rangy safety who runs pretty well. He’s got good ball skills. He’s very smart. I think he’s a two-time captain at Notre Dame, which tells you about his personality, intangibles and leadership. Both guys are very good players.”

While only so much should be taken from Wednesday’s pre-draft press conference — nicknamed the “liar’s luncheon” over the years — the Ravens will maintain the same philosophy that’s brought them so much draft success in the history of the franchise.

“Some needs have to go into play, because we have to fulfill them,” Newsome said. “But we still — and we have said this for 16 years — we will not take [a lesser player for] need over a real good player at another position.”

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Bisciotti revisits many reasons he hired John Harbaugh

Posted on 27 March 2012 by Nestor Aparicio

Four years ago Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti fired Brian Billick and set forth to hire a new head coach. After dancing with Jason Garrett, he hired John Harbaugh. The success has been apparent to all as well as Bisciotti’s decision to keep Ozzie Newsome aboard in Baltimore.

Hear what Bisciotti told me this afternoon in Palm Beach, Fla.:

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decosta

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DeCosta remaining with Ravens, won’t interview for GM openings

Posted on 06 January 2012 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens enjoying their bye week and poised to host a playoff game next Sunday in Baltimore, they received even more good news with the announcement on Friday that director of player personnel Eric DeCosta is staying put.

After having his name linked to general manager openings in Chicago, St. Louis, Oakland, and Indianapolis, the 40-year-old will forgo any interviews to remain with the organization where he received his start in 1996. DeCosta has been identified as the heir apparent to general manager Ozzie Newsome and had turned down interview opportunities in the past, including one with the Seattle Seahawks in 2009.

“He has chosen to stay with the Ravens, and we’re excited that he will,” Newsome said in an official statement. “He is a most valuable asset and will continue to help us win championships.”

DeCosta served as the Ravens’ director of college scouting for six years before being elevated to his current position on Jan. 28, 2009. He began at an entry-level position within the organization in its first year in Baltimore before becoming an area scout in 1998.

Past front office members such as Phil Savage and George Kokinis have left the organization to accept general manager positions, only to find the grass isn’t always elsewhere. Kokinis has since returned to the Ravens as a senior personnel assistant. DeCosta, a Massachusetts native, has close ties to the area with his wife hailing from Maryland.

“Since this franchise started in 1996, we’ve established a strong history of retaining our most important executives, players, coaches and personnel experts,” Newsome said. “Eric, who has had opportunities to interview with other teams recently and over the years, is another one we want to keep and will keep.”

With DeCosta staying with the Ravens, the question will now continue to be how much longer the 55-year-old Newsome remains as general manager. Serving as Newsome’s right-hand man, DeCosta has a strong relationship with the long-time architect of the Ravens.

Hear DeCosta’s Friday morning conversation with Drew Forrester and Nestor Aparicio hours before the announcement right here.

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As the NFL lockout ends, the time to say goodbye to some GREAT Ravens likely approaches ....

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As the NFL lockout ends, the time to say goodbye to some GREAT Ravens likely approaches ….

Posted on 25 July 2011 by Rex Snider

As we’ve now endured more than 130 days immersed within football’s version of HELL, it appears the brink of a new season awaits us.  Vote on this, vote on that ….

Training camps are supposedly opening next Saturday morning.  That’s the latest information from a twisted saga that has taken many, many turns.

Free agency is predicted to be a frenzied period of mass signings and cuts, along with very little time for dragging out negotiations.  In other words, we won’t be tortured with weeks of whether Brett Favre is coming back or not.

The biggest free agency prizes will likely have new homes and helmets by the time I return from vacation, two weeks from today.  And, Owings Mills will most certainly be a destination for a number of known NFL talents, as well.

Did I mention vacation?

That’s correct …. as the Ravens report to Westminster-East at the franchise’s headquarters, and as the world of the NFL is turned upside down with mass rumors, tweets, speculations and ultimate transactions, I will be enjoying all the news from the comforts of a beach chair in the surf, at Dewey Beach.

Perfect timing, huh?

We’re still days away from any official windows of negotiation – we’re not 100% certain of rules and policies regarding such overtures – and names of possible casualties and additions for the 2011 edition of the Baltimore Ravens are abounding.

Who do you believe?  What do you believe?  Should you even believe this lockout is really coming to an end?

The lockout is ending.  The owners and players have long concluded this marriage won’t suffer a separation that costs either side any money.  Thus, you can bet we’re on the brink of actually seeing, hearing and talking about football and its daily drama …..

And, as we’re on the verge of a new season, the speculation has already begun.  We know the Ravens will make some painful cuts of veteran talents, while also conceding to allow some of the team’s free agents to walk away.  But, they’re likely to make some very exciting additions, as well. 

We kinda know most of the team’s needs – but, we don’t really know what Ozzie Newsome and company are thinking …. OR how they’ll go about building their vision of the best team for the upcoming season.

But, we’ve heard the rumors.

Steve Bisciotti, Ozzie, Eric DeCosta, John Harbaugh and others whom are tasked with collaborating to the choices of parting with members of “the family” are undoubtedly conflicted over a number of such decisions.  They’re human and while the heart doesn’t likely figure into the ultimate decision, its certainly impacted – especially when they leave Winning Drive and explore their conscience. 

But, it’s the business of the National Football League.

I’ll leave you with a pictorial collection of the rumored potential exits that could transpire over the next couple weeks.  Some are predictably apparent and others are a reach.  From a personal perspective, I can imagine this process is among the toughest and most agonizing for any executives.

I’ll leave it to you, the reader, to weigh in with thoughts and opinions …..

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Torrey Smith

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Former Terps WR Torrey Smith ready to “help Ravens get to a Super Bowl…and win it”

Posted on 04 May 2011 by Ryan Chell

From the start of the evaluation process for the 2011 NFL Draft, the Ravens personnel department said repeatedly that they were very interested in bringing in former Maryland Terps wide receiver Torrey Smith for a look at solving their offensive woes.

Torrey Smith

But only if the price was right.

And that price was at best a second-round pick-which happened to be the case as former Ravens LB Peter Boulware announced that Baltimore had selected the Maryland Terrapins junior receiver with the 58th selection last Friday night.

And for Smith, playing for the nearby Ravens was definitely a possibility  for him, as he told Thyrl Nelson Monday on “The Mobtown Sports Beat” in his first appearance on Nelson’s program since becoming a Raven.

Smith had joined Nelson every week since January giving updates on his draft preparation.

“I knew it was a possibility,” Smith told Nelson. “I wanted to be there.”

Before the draft based on Smith’s pure athletic ability, resume at Maryland and his Combine numbers, Torrey Smith had been projected by every mock draft to at least land on all 32 NFL teams.

But luckily, Smith was able to fall given some of the other wide receivers and position players being of need.

But despite not being drafted Thursday by an NFL team, Smith knew that he could always rely on the Ravens to call his name.

“I felt like Ozzie and Coach Harbaugh wanted to draft me,” Smith said. “I’m just happy everything happened the way it did.”

In a sense, it seemed like it was meant to be for the Ravens to take their second Jimmy Smith of the draft weekend (Torrey’s real first name is James.)

“I didn’t necessarily think he was going to be there,” Ravens director of pro personnel Eric DeCosta told Drew Forrester Tuesday morning. “I thought it was probably a 50-50 shot.”

It does come as quite the surprise that Smith was available to the Ravens at 58 given his impressive resume in his final season at Maryland.

Smith had 67 catches (4th best in school history), 1,055 yards and a Maryland-record 12 TDs in his final season at College Park, and built on his career numbers of 152 catches, 2,215 yards, and 19 TDs.

Only former Raven Jermaine Lewis has more receiving touchdowns (21)and yards (2,932)in his career than Smith.

Smith hopes he can bring the same skills to the table taking passes from Joe Flacco behind two of the best in the business.

“I just want to help anywhere I can,” Smith said. “I’m lucky to be able to learn from Derrick Mason and Anquan Boldin. I’m looking forward to learning from them.”

Smith also offers versatility and options to the Ravens in the return game. In fact, Smith broke onto the scene in the ACC more for his return skills at first-then he blossomed into an NFL-caliber receiver.

In his career, he amassed 2, 983 return yards which broke the previous ACC-record.

His three career touchdowns returned via kickoff are a Terrapins school record.

All-in-all, it was everything Smith brings to the Ravens that caused Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome to call Smith their “three-pointer”.

“I think the Ravens can use my speed,” Smith said. “They need that from me. I’m happy I can provide that and give the Ravens my best up there.”

But Torrey’s going to have to put on the brakes for now. Just like the rest of the Ravens draft picks minus first-rounder Jimmy Smith, Torrey Smith unfortunately wasn’t able to get a playbook from the Ravens coaching staff due to the lockout being put back into place by the owners Friday into Saturday.

“I was only able to say hello at the press conference and that was it. I couldn’t talk about football and didn’t get any playbooks,” Smith said. “It was tough.”

But so far, he has heard from several of his new Ravens teammates though and they are ready to embrace him as quickly as the opportunity presents itself.

And he’s ready to use the same speed in getting prepared toward playing in the NFL that he used toward burning past ACC-defenders and tacklers.

“My goal is to help the Ravens get to a Super Bowl and win it,” Smith said. “I hope the judge rules in favor of the players so that everything can get going.”

WNST thanks Torrey Smith for joining “The Mobtown Sports Beat” after being drafted by the Ravens and leading up to the Draft as well! Torrey being a Raven makes it that much easier to root for him! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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Live From Owings Mills: With Draft in Rear View, Pass Rush Must Be Priority for Ravens

Posted on 30 April 2011 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens concluded the 2011 NFL Draft Sunday by making five additional selections.

Indiana WR Tandon Doss (4th round-123rd overall), Texas CB Chykie Brown (5th round-164th overall), Mississippi State DE Pernell McPhee (5th round, 165th overall), Virginia Tech QB Tyrod Taylor (6th round, 180th overall), and Georgia Tech RB Anthony Allen (7th round, 225th overall) will all have the opportunity to make the roster out of Training Camp and provide depth for a team that appears to be capable of again making a run at the AFC playoffs.

Yet as the team now transitions from the end of the Draft to what we eventually hope will be the start of the offseason, they do so without having made a significant upgrade to a disappointing pass rush unit. The good news is that unlike in past years, the team was able to make their choices in the Draft knowing they would still have a way to upgrade the rush.

“I like it better” said Head Coach John Harbaugh Saturday. “You’re always looking for need. You take the best available player, but everybody knows that’s not a pure rule. Need is mixed into that whole thing.”

Harbaugh acknowledged that without taking a rusher early the Ravens can now “look at free agency and try to pay for a guy.”

The Ravens will presumably have options to pay free agent defensive ends whenever free agency does begin. Ray Edwards (Minnesota Vikings), Jason Babin (Tennessee Titans) and Mathias Kiwanuka (New York Giants) are all expected to become free agents. The Ravens could use any of that group to help improve a D-Line that finished the 2010 season with just 9.5 sacks last season and only four sacks from D-Linemen not named Haloti Ngata.

“Pass rushers are like corners” said General Manager Ozzie Newsome. “You don’t ever have enough of those guys. You need as many rushers as you can get. We tried to draft a couple of them, they got picked one pick or two picks before us.”

The wild card in the group is of course McPhee, who showed signs of being a productive rush end during two years in Starkville and was an outstanding rush end before that at Itawamba Community College. He tallied 32.5 sacks in two JUCO seasons but just seven during his two seasons at MSU.

The Ravens have been unable to produce a productive rush end since Trevor Pryce’s 13 sack season in 2006. The team had hoped for more immediate production from 2009 second round pick DE Paul Kruger, but he has produced just one sack total in his first two seasons. Cory Redding performed admirably in 2010, but got to the quarterback just three times.

The Ravens will be more hard-pressed to find OLB production in this year’s free agent class. Kansas City Chiefs LB Tamba Hali was franchised earlier in the offseason, taking the only premiere rush linebacker out of the offseason mix.

Newsome confirmed the team would make pass rush a priority for the remainder of the offseason.

“If we could get the opportunity to put ourselves in a position to get someone else, we would probably be looking at it very seriously.”

The team still hopes LB Sergio Kindle can help improve a defense that totaled just 27 sacks in 2010. Kindle missed the entire season while recovering from a fractured skull suffered in a preseason accident at a friend’s house in Austin. Kindle combined for 16 sacks between his junior and senior seasons with the Longhorns before being selected by the Ravens in the 2nd round of the 2010 NFL Draft.

Kindle has received medical clearance to begin football work, but is not guaranteed to be on the field when the Ravens open the season September 11th against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Should the Ravens not be able to upgrade their pass rush via trade/free agency, they may ultimately regret not using an early round selection on a front seven defender. The good news is that unlike in other years, the team will be able to address their needs after the Draft.

NOTES: Newsome and Harbaugh introduced their first two picks-Colorado CB Jimmy Smith and Maryland WR Torrey Smith-at a Saturday morning press conference. The presser can be heard in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net……Our brief interview with Smith is available courtesy of WNSTV/YouTube below……Harbaugh told reporters the team was able to give Jimmy Smith a playbook Friday night before the lockout was put back into effect, but was not able to get a playbook to any other Draft choice……Conference calls with Brown and Taylor are also available in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault, as is the team’s Draft wrap press conference featuring Newsome, Harbaugh, Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta and Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IeV-3JDH_Q&feature=channel_video_title[/youtube]

-G

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The Ravens did their part in trusting him, the rest is up to Jimmy Smith

Posted on 30 April 2011 by Drew Forrester

Everyone has an opinion on Jimmy Smith.

And most of it has nothing to do with his ability to play football.

When you bring a checkered past with you on the flight to Baltimore, there’s legitimate cause for concern, particularly when the Ravens are coming off a season that saw their first pick miss the season due to a freak off-field accident.  Most will remember that Sergio Kindle, like Smith, had a variety of missteps througout college before Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta selected him last April.  That made the selection questionable at best, particularly for those who said “too much baggage” when claiming Kindle wouldn’t pan out as a pro player.

Now along comes Jimmy Smith, he of the three failed drug tests, multiple arrests and other personal issues that certainly led to a great number of NFL teams saying “thanks, but no thanks” on Thursday night.

He’s destined to fail too, right?

Maybe.

But maybe not.

I’ll get this out of the way, as it speaks volumes to everyone reading this and, frankly, to me as well, since I opine about things like the NFL draft for a living.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IeV-3JDH_Q[/youtube]

There’s no fan or media member anywhere in Baltimore – and this includes YOU – who knows more about the players who were available in this year’s draft than Ozzie Newsome, Eric DeCosta and Joe Hortiz.  You might be a college football fan, you might subscribe to 10 different college scouting websites and you might fancy yourself a real talent evaluator, but the cold-water-in-the-face truth about it all is you know very little, really.  None of us – you, me, and everyone else in Baltimore – have ever had a meal with Jimmy Smith.  We haven’t looked him in the eye and asked him about his past.  The ONLY evaluation we can all make on him is what we’ve seen on TV – on the field – and what we’ve read or heard about him – off the field.

On a scale of 1-to-10, “our” knowledge of college players (you, me and the rest of the great unwashed) is a “1” when compared to Newsome and DeCosta and Hortiz.  That’s the truth.  They spend their lives following and evaluating the players.  We do it in between commercials on ESPN.

It’s a slippery slope when you’ve never actually met someone and looked them in the eye and yet you feel compelled to make a critical personal evaluation of them.

Sometimes, of course, “a leopard’s spots never go away, they just fade a little” turns out to be the right cliche.

There’s no excusing Smith’s teen-years behavior.  We had someone call the show on Friday and poo-poo his failed drug tests and arrests by simply saying, “nearly all of us smoked weed or got arrested, come on man…”  Actually, that’s not true.  Plenty of people reading this right now never smoked pot or got arrested in their life.  And when you get $200,000 worth of free college education, you’re obligated to try and conduct yourself in a manner befitting someone who has just received a benefit that millions of kids in America would give their left arm to receive.

There’s no excuse for radical, destructive behavior.  Just saying “lots of people get arrested” doesn’t change the fact that Jimmy Smith’s past is concerning because, as we all were taught in 4th grade, history repeats itself.

But it’s very fair to point out that everyone deserves the chance to turn their life around after a hiccup or two.  And unless you’ve had the chance to have a heart-to-heart talk with Jimmy Smith, it’s not possible for you to make an assessment on Smith’s potential in the NFL.

I’m not shying away from the fact that I wouldn’t have picked Jimmy Smith.  I said on Friday morning I wouldn’t have picked him and I’m not changing now.

But I’m also not saying he’s a guaranteed failure in the NFL, either.

To borrow a familiar phrase in Baltimore, I’m willing to “let the process play out”.  The skinny on Smith is that it’s been two years since his most recent transgression.  If that’s true – and he’s been “clean” for the better part of 24 months – that’s a prett solid indication that he’s growing up.

Jimmy Smith might show up here and enjoy a spectacular 12-year career in Baltimore.  His wild oats sewn at Colorado, Smith may never again have a brush with the law.

I sure hope that’s the case.

And there’s definitely a chance that the money, the fame, the girls and the rock-star life of an NFL player might intoxicate Smith to the point that he just never quite buys into the idea of becoming a true professional.

We’d all be naive to blindly assume Jimmy Smith won’t be tempted to stray from the straight-and-narrow once he gets his feet under him in Baltimore.

Ultimately, it’s up to him.

It’s not up to Ray Lewis or Ed Reed or Chuck Pagano or John Harbaugh or anyone else in the organization.

Jimmy Smith just went from the JV to the Varsity.

To borrow a line from Training Day, “this s**t ain’t checkers, it’s chess…”

At Colorado, if Smith woke up at 7:30 am and didn’t feel like going to class, he just didn’t go.

When the coach said, “get your work-out in before 1pm”, that could mean get there at 10am or 11am or 12:15 pm.

In the NFL, 7:30 means 7:20.

In the NFL, “study the playbook and know the scheme” isn’t an option you can choose if the cheerleader you’re dating decides she needs to stay in and study for her philosophy exam instead of coming over to meet you to “hook up”.

In the NFL, your professionalism helps your team win games or costs your team games.

The only person who can decide what path he’s going to take in the NFL is Jimmy Smith.

He’ll get guidance, of course.  Coaches will mentor him, players will take him under their wing and Smith will be welcomed like every other player in the locker room.

But this story will ultimately be written by Jimmy Smith.

He either has it in his heart to fall in line and be a professional like Lewis, Reed, Derrick Mason, Ben Grubbs, Todd Heap, et al or he doesn’t.

If he makes it, the Ravens made the right pick.

If he doesn’t, they made the wrong pick.

It’s that simple, really.

The proof lies in what happens on the field and how long Smith stays in the league.

And only Jimmy Smith can determine the final result.

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Jah Reid

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Live From Owings Mills: “Smith” Ravens’ 2nd Pick, Terps’ Torrey Adds New Chapter to Amazing Story

Posted on 29 April 2011 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Let me start with some full disclosure. I’m a University of Maryland alum and an unabashed supporter of the Terrapins football program.

I’ll follow with further full disclosure. There was no prospect in the 2011 NFL Draft that I was more familiar with than former Terps WR Torrey Smith. You probably won’t remember this gem of an “interview” from the team’s 2010 Media Day in College Park…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=apWJYZNRyQA[/youtube]

On top of that, I coordinated a weekly appearance between Smith and AM1570 host Thyrl Nelson every Tuesday since January on “The Mobtown Sports Beat.”

Now that it’s all out there, I’ll speak freely.

And after looking past a lengthy rap-sheet to select Colorado CB Jimmy Smith in the first round, the Baltimore Ravens grabbed an amazing human being in the 2nd-round (58th pick overall) by selecting their second Smith of the week.

(They’re of course hoping he pans out to be just as good of a football player at the NFL level as well.)

Smith’s story is well-known amongst Maryland fans, and will quickly become just as known amongst similar Ravens fans who gobbled up everything Michael Oher and “The Blind Side” related two seasons ago.

As detailed in an incredible Washington Post story by Eric Prisbell (Head Coach John Harbaugh said Friday night he was “choked up” and “proud” of Smith after just reading the article), Smith’s childhood was impossibly difficult.

Smith was born three months early, undersized with meningitis and jaundice. He was rushed to an incubator and lived the first 10 weeks of his life in a hospital.

Smith’s childhood would leave him witness to a scene where his mother, Monica, was held at gunpoint by her then-husband and Smith was immediately forced to help raise his younger siblings as early as the age of four.

As recently as 2010, Smith’s mother had faced up to ten years in prison stemming from a fight with her daughter-in-law (a plea agreement would help prevent the lengthy sentence).

As I said, I’d suggest you read the story.

“You saw the celebration (after the pick was announced) when they had Torrey on TV?” asked Harbaugh following the 2nd round. “I want you to know there was a bigger celebration in our Draft room when we got this player.”

The Ravens are clearly excited about adding Smith’s size, speed and resume to a receiving corps that already features multiple Pro Bowl performers in Derrick Mason and Anquan Boldin. Smith measured in at 6’1″, 204 pounds and clocked a 4.41 time in the forty yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. During three seasons in College Park, he tallied 2,281 yards from scrimmage and 20 offensive touchdowns to go with 2,983 return yards and three additional TD’s.

Some scouts thought he had first-round talent, but some questions about his route-running forced him to drop into the second.

The Ravens were grateful to find him there.

“He can peal the top off a defense,” said General Manager Ozzie Newsome. “He brings that added dimension to our pass game. [Quarterback] Joe [Flacco] is a deep-thrower. Joe has the ability to throw the deep ball…he has the arm strength to do it. Now we’re giving Joe an additional weapon and that opens up our passing game.”

Newsome would go on jokingly to label Smith as a “3-point shooter” in the Ravens offense: “At any point if the ball gets in his hands, Billy [Cundiff] is coming out to kick an extra point.”

The deep-ball was sorely missing from the Ravens offense last year. The team had just seven passing plays of 40-plus yards-Mason led the team with two-during 16 regular season games and then recorded none in the postseason.

After finding out his football future would lead him up the road to Charm City, Smith told reporters he knew his character would help his transition.

“I knew the way I am as a person…the way I play fit the way they do things up there,” he said.

As much as the Ravens will benefit from the addition of Smith on the field, they will absolutely benefit from the addition of a man like Torrey Smith in their locker room as well.

Former Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen said of Smith in the Post story, “God created a perfect person.”

The Ravens might settle for a good guy. And a really good receiver.

RAVENS DEAL FOR ANOTHER “REID”
: The Ravens dealt their third round pick (90th overall) and one of two sixth round picks (191st overall) to the Philadelphia Eagles to move up five spots and select Central Florida OT Jah Reid in the 3rd round (85th overall).

Jah Reid

Reid (6’7″, 327 pounds) was described by Newsome as a “fast-riser” on the Ravens draft board following his performance at this year’s East-West Shrine Game in Orlando.

The Ravens will start the 2010 first-team All-Conference-USA selection at RT, where he will find a bit of a crowd. Jared Gaither missed all of 2010 with a back injury and could reach free agency depending on the resolution of the CBA-dispute between the league and the NFLPA.

Marshal Yanda is a restricted free agent (expected to return) who performed admirably filling in for Gaither but Harbaugh has said the team would prefer to move him back to his more natural right guard position.

Oniel Cousins and Tony Moll have not shown themselves as viable options to play significantly. 2010 6th-round pick Ramon Harewood also missed the entire season needing surgery on both knees.

When asked what the Ravens liked about Reid, Harbaugh said: “he is long, he is powerful and he can bend.”

NOTES: The Ravens will receive no compensation from the National Football League or the Chicago Bears following a miscue during the attempt of a first-round trade. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported NFL commissioner Roger Goodell “encouraged” the Bears to give the Ravens a 4th round pick, but the Bears chose not to do so……The Ravens are scheduled to introduce Jimmy Smith and Torrey Smith to reporters at an 11am press conference Saturday at 1 Winning Drive……The Ravens are slated to make five picks on Saturday. They currently hold one fourth round pick (123rd overall), two compensatory fifth round picks (164th and 165th overall), one sixth round pick (180th overall, acquired from the St. Louis Rams in last year’s Mark Clayton deal) and one seventh round pick (225th overall, acquired from the Eagles in last year’s Antwan Barnes deal)……Hear from Newsome, Harbaugh, Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta, Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz and Torrey Smith now in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net

-G

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Live From Owings Mills: Panic, Risk Surround Ravens’ Choice of Colorado’s Smith

Posted on 29 April 2011 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Does anyone remember what I said about Baltimore Ravens LB Sergio Kindle in my lede following the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft?

“In the case of Kindle, the number of red flags rivals the number that will be assembled in the corners of every pitch at this summer’s World Cup.”

As many inside the Ravens’ 1 Winning Drive facility will tell you, the story on Kindle is far from finished. Yet in the first 12 months, the first chapter has been far from what the team had hoped for. The 12 months included a fractured skull stemming from a fall at a house party in Austin that forced him to miss the season, admission to suffering from narcolepsy and a DUI arrest.

So when the name of Colorado CB Jimmy Smith was tossed around by NFL Draft analysts in the months following the end of the 2010 season, I found myself shaking my head over the idea of adding a player with the history of Smith. Smith’s rap sheet is…well…lengthy.

Smith’s history includes three failed drug tests (one of which he had admitted was codeine), two alcohol violations as a minor, an assault arrest, and two abortions paid for by the families of women he impregnated. (Rap sheet courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Even after the disappointment of their first pick in 2010, the organization’s decision makers said they were unconcerned about the troubles surrounding Smith-leading them to use their first round selection (which turned out to be the 27th overall) on the former Colorado corner.

“We put him through a process” said General Manager Ozzie Newsome. “Even more so than we do some of the other players. We came away feeling that he would be able to come here and continue to be the type of player and person that he’s been for the last couple of years.”

“We all spent a great amount of time with him” added Head Coach John Harbaugh. “We think he’s got a good heart, we think he’s very committed to being a great football player. We’re going to do everything we can to help him be that. As a head football coach I’m excited about this pick.”

In a conference call immediately following the selection, Smith said it had been more than two years since he had run into trouble. He also said he was committed to not replaying his past in Baltimore.

“The things that I did were old mistakes and bad decisions that I made when I was younger and immature” said the 2010 All-Big 12 corner. “It’s in the past now. I’m just trying to best player and person off the field for the Ravens that I can possibly be.”

In other words, the first 60 minutes following the team’s selection of Smith went better than the ten minutes leading up to the pick.

I can’t help but to come back to the fact that when the Ravens were faced with the choice of selecting the former Buffaloes star at 26th overall or trading out of the pick, the Ravens decided to trade out of the pick.

That decision doesn’t exactly stand tall next to the wonderful things the front office said following Smith’s selection.

Newsome confirmed an ESPN report that the team had an agreement with “another NFL team” to deal back from the 26th pick. ESPN reported the trade partner as being the Chicago Bears-which the Ravens would not confirm following the Draft. (The Bears later confirmed they were the guilty party and offered apologies to the Ravens). Newsome said the Ravens made the agreement to trade out of the pick, but their partner never received approval from the league. The panic surrounding the dissolution of the exchange allowed the Kansas City Chiefs to step in and select Pitt WR Jon Baldwin with the 26th pick, forcing the Ravens to jump back in and select Smith 27th.

In a deal with the Bears, the Ravens likely would have moved just three spots back

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