There have been plenty of Mock drafts floating around the internet of late. Some have the Ravens taking an offensive lineman in the first. Some have them taking a linebacker, wide receiver, defensive end or safety. Of course you can make a strong argument for each of these areas because, although the Ravens have their starting positions set for the most part, they are desperately in need of depth at some. Perhaps the most pressing need is guard. The team should be able to find at least one quality guard in this draft. Shortly behind guard is safety. Unfortunately, in this years draft, safeties are few and far between.
Mark Barron of Alabama is the overall consensus top safety in the draft but after him there is really not much. The number two ranked safety, Notre Dame's Harrison Smith, has been linked to Baltimore in more than one draft. Some have them picking him at the 29th pick overall. Smith is an excellent athlete and a physically imposing figure in the secondary at 6'2" 215 lbs., with room to grow. however for the Ravens to use a first round pick on someone I think they really have to know that he has the potential to be either a dominant lineman or a true play-maker at the next level.
That just doesn't seem right to me. Smith is a converted linebacker who can deliver crushing blows in the secondary but I just do not think he is what the Ravens are looking for in a safety. Especially in the first round. Smith struggles in pass coverage and has very tight hips causing him to perform poorly with his back to the ball. He can be very explosive at times but I do not think he is what Baltimore is looking for out of a first rounder. It seems too much like a reach out of need to me, and that's something the Ravens do not do.
I wouldn't be against drafting Smith later in the draft for depth but I think the overall lack of safety talent in the draft may cause his stock to be way too high. I understand the need to get a replacement for Ed Reed at some point but this guy looks more to be suited for strong safety. Maybe the next Bernard Pollard.
Below are Smiths' strengths and weaknesses, you be the judge.
Strengths: Looks the part with prototypical size and strength for a strong safety, long arms with a filled-out frame. Extremely strong with natural power to make punishing hits. Physical striker who enjoys contact. Fills the run lanes hard and is a downhill athlete with an aggressive nature at the point of attack. Plays fast and closes in a flash with conviction and determination, fast in pursuit. Makes plays at all levels of the field and has strong hands to make shoe-string tackles. Read/reacts quickly and does a nice job interpreting the eyes of the quarterback. Big-time competitor and leader, never giving up on plays, goes hard at full speed. Very active pre-snap and shows natural awareness. Played both linebacker and safety in college with 47 career starts, showing steady improvement over his time in South Bend. Very productive at Notre Dame, leaving as the only player in school history to register more than 200 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 15 pass break-ups over his career, finished with 307 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss and 28 pass break-ups.
Weaknesses: An upright athlete who lacks ideal body flexibility and natural explosion to hold up in coverage or space. Has tight hips and struggles to turn and quickly change directions, plays stiff. Needs to be a more technically-sound tackler, often going for the knockout hit or forced fumble instead of wrapping up, hits too high and loses leverage, allowing ball carriers to pick up extra yards. Plays overaggressive and moves too fast for his eyes ? missed tackles in space and over runs plays. Has streaky instincts and doesn't see things as quick as he needs to. Still has a lot of developing to do. Needs to play under control and disciplined, too many unnecessary face-mask penalties on his record. Has poor footwork and feel in man coverage and is too hands-on when left on an island, will attract pass interference penalties. Still made too many mistakes as a senior and didn't register an interception in 2011 after seven pick-offs in 2010.
NFL Comparison: Craig Steltz, Chicago Bears
-- Dane Brugler
Also here is an overview on Smith from cbssports.com
Smith was a highly regarded recruit, choosing Notre Dame over Tennessee, Stanford and Auburn. After red-shirting in 2007, he soon earned his way onto the field at both linebacker and safety in 2008 as a true freshman (9 starts), recording 57 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, and 7 pass break-ups. Smith started all 12 games in 2009 as a sophomore at both linebacker and safety, finishing with 69 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 4 pass break-ups and 1 forced fumble.
He had his most productive season in 2010 as a junior (13 starts), finishing second on the team with 91 tackles and led the Irish with 7 interceptions (fourth in the FBS) and 7 pass break-ups. Smith returned in 2011 as a senior captain with 13 starts, recording 90 tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble and a career-best 10 pass break-ups, but didn't record a pick-off.
Smith is a hybrid linebacker/safety prospect with the build, straight-line speed and natural power to turn heads, downhill defender whose shortcomings athletically are exposed in coverage. He is a much better player facing the action, struggling with his back to the ball. Smith is a frustrating prospect because he shows flashes with his natural skill and play-making ability, but is too inconsistent against both the run and pass.
Smith is rough around the edges and is far from starting in the NFL because of his limitations in coverage and mental mistakes, but he should excel on special teams coverage with his closing and hitting ability, an in-the-box safety prospect who will impress physically, but shouldn't be drafted in the top-75 picks on draft weekend.