Jimmy Smith

Like a volatile stock fund, University of Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith simultaneously intrigues and scares potential investors. NFL teams marvel over his imposing size and rare speed and athleticism. And they have legitimate concerns about his character created by a history of failed drug tests and a pair of arrests for underage possession of alcohol.

The Baltimore Ravens are one of the teams investigating whether they should take a risk on Smith and draft him in the first round with the 26th overall pick.

They've hosted Smith for an official visit with general manager Ozzie Newsome, coach John Harbaugh and director of player personnel Eric DeCosta looking him in the eye at the Ravesn' training complex and asking him some tough questions.

And that leaves them with some challenging questions of their own: Is Smith a flawed personality who'll repeat his mistakes in the NFL once he's a multi-millionaire? Or is he a reformed young man who has learned his lesson? "We scrutinize everything in relation to these players," DeCosta said. "This is a detail business. When you take a shortcut, you make a mistake. We have talked to Jimmy. We've spent time with him and we've yet to finalize the board. We've yet to make any decisions about any player at all. We'll continue to do that and we'll make a decision then."

Smith is aware of the scrutiny he's facing. Bold and swaggering, the 6-foot-2, 211-pounder insists he has superior skills to Oakland Raiders All-Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. And Smith insists he's a changed man.

"Every team had questions about my character, they want to know about the red flags, not about if I can play or not," Smith told the Carroll County Times in a telephone interview. "They tell me they like me physically. It kind of sucks that everyone wants to talk about the character issue. It's definitely all about your maturity level. I'm happy I got caught early because it made me more mature now. "I'm happy those things happened because I learned from it and grew from it. My maturity level is so much greater now than when I first got to school. I was finally away from home and I was partying and having fun. I've learned my lessons."

Smith has drawn several comparisons to former Ravens Pro Bowl cornerback Chris McAlister. Smith ran the 40-yard dash between 4.37 and 4.42 seconds at the NFL scouting combine where he also bench pressed 225 pounds 24 times and registered a 36-inch vertical leap and a 10-2 broad jump. Like McAlister, Smith is a big shutdown cornerback. Like McAlister, who had arrests for driving under the influence and possession of marijuana while playing for the Ravens with both cases dropped, he's also had off-field issues. "The Ravens said I kind of had the same body type as him," Smith said. "They said he had all the potential, but he didn't learn from his mistakes or he could have still been playing a lot longer. It was pretty straight-forward. They like me as a player. I think I made a good impression. When I asked them, they felt the same way." McAlister is out of the league now following a brief stint with the New Orleans Saints after being cut by Baltimore. He was a three-time Pro Bowl selection for the Ravens.

They haven't had a physically dominant cornerback since McAlister was on the roster. "There's only one Chris McAlister," DeCosta said. "Physically, Jimmy and Chris are about the same size. So, yeah, they do look a little bit alike." Smith also visited the Seattle Seahawks, Washington Redskins, Cleveland Browns, Raiders, New York Jets, San Diego Chargers, New Orleans Saints, Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings and the Philadelphia Eagles. An All-Big 12 selection and an honorable-mention All-American, Smith was only thrown at roughly 20 times in man coverage last season. He allowed one touchdown, had no interceptions and five pass deflections.

He was generally avoided by quarterbacks and finished with 183 career tackles and 16 pass deflections with three career interceptions. He only allowed 11 completions in man coverage over his junior and senior seasons. "They're going to get the best cornerback in the draft," Smith said. "Defensively, I bring a lot to the table: size, speed, ability to play like a 5-11 corner being 6-2. They need corners my size because of how big the receivers are getting these days. I can do everything a small corner can do."

The Ravens could face competition for Smith from Philadelphia, which holds the 23rd pick and is also in need of a large cornerback. The earliest Smith has been projected is the Lions' 13th pick.

NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock believes that Smith stacks up favorably as a football player with LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson and Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamura. "If he didn't have the off-the-field issues, he'd be a potential top 10 pick," Mayock said. "He's an athletic freak with length and speed. How far will he fall?

"I think Philly and Baltimore are two of the teams that draft in the 20s that could both use a big corner and both have locker rooms whose infrastructure may be able to handle a kid like that and get him on the right path. Jimmy Smith has unlimited upside. This kid would be a great addition. However, he comes with a buyer-beware caution."

At least one analyst thinks that teams are warming up to the idea of adding Smith to their organization.

"There's a strong belief amongst people that I've talked to in the league that he wants to be great, he wants to have a change of scenery," ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said. "He's saying a lot of the right things, and teams are believing it. You go back to talk to his coaches at Colorado, and they think a lot of those things are in his past. I'm getting a general consensus that yes, there are character concerns there, and, yes, it will cause him to drop a little bit, but that he's starting to mature." The Ravens would like to get bigger in the secondary.

Baltimore cornerbacks Josh Wilson, Chris Carr, Domonique Foxworth or Lardarius Webb are all undersized.

"We'd like to get bigger at every position, faster at every position, but if you look at our corners, they're built like me," DeCosta said. "If you could have a guy that's 6-foot, 6-foot-2, it helps you down the field quite a bit." If the Ravens are unable to land Smith or decide that he's too much trouble, they could address the position in the second round or later. Among the candidates: Miami cornerback Brandon Harris or Virginia cornerback Ras-I Dowling. Harris has worked out for the Ravens.

"Brandon Harris is a smaller guy I think more equipped for the nickel position," Mayock said. "Ras-I Dowling has durability issues. Dowling has got an ability to start, and he's a guy you can get in the second round. His only real issue is durability. After that, I can't get two teams to agree on whose next. That's how tough a corner class it is after that."

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