The Ravens were able to select him with the 27th overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft, capitalizing on Smith's fall partially due to off-field concerns. For a franchise that has had few true shutdown cornerbacks in its history, Smith provided a ray of hope, as he appeared primed to be one of the cornerstones of Baltimore's secondary.
So far, the exact opposite has been the case.
In two seasons, Smith has been hampered by various injuries. During his time on the field, he has been less than stellar. In 23 career regular season games, Smith has managed to record just five starts.
When Lardarius Webb suffered a season-ending ACL injury last season, it was Smith who was supposed to step up in Webb's absence. Instead, Smith failed to crack the starting lineup, allowing special teams ace Corey Graham to outshine him.
Moving forward to 2013, it appears that Graham is the favorite to win the starting job again opposite Webb, leaving Smith on the outside looking in. But if Smith's finish to the 2012 season proved anything, it is that he may be primed to finally turn the corner and at least partially live up to the first-round hype.
In the 2012 playoffs, every Ravens cornerback played their best four-game stretch of the year, including Smith. His impressive postseason culminated with his play on the San Francisco 49ers' last offensive drive in the Super Bowl. On fourth down and primed to score the go-ahead touchdown with less than two minutes to play, quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw the ball up to his right side, where Smith was isolated on 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree.
Smith used one of his most successful tactics, his physicality, to shield Crabtree from the corner of the end zone, ultimately giving the Ravens the win.
Could that play help catapult Smith to a more focused mentality with more urgency in 2013? Perhaps, as so far Smith has been working to get his body in the best shape of his career.
"I want to do exactly what they know I can do here," Smith told BaltimoreRavens.com.
With a renewed focus for the game and more time spent on his physical preparation, Smith could have a legitimate shot at beating out Graham for a starting job. Even if he doesn't, being the team's third cornerback and playing 16 games of healthy, consistent football would be more than enough after two disappointing seasons.
Kyle Casey is a sports writer living in Baltimore, Md. He maintains his own football site, End Zone Report, and contributes to Russell Street Report, a Baltimore Ravens blog.
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