REACTION: Eagles Draft for Need, Get an Exciting Player in Marcus Smith


Oct 26, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Louisville Cardinals defensive end Marcus Smith (91) sacks South Florida Bulls quarterback Bobby Eveld (13) during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

If the Eagles tell you they took the best-player available with the 26th overall selection, they’re either delusional or lying. Make no mistake, Marcus Smith was a ‘need’ pick for a team with a glaring deficiency in terms of rushing the passer. That being said, though players like Bradley Roby and Marqise Lee may have graded out higher than Smith, it’s not as if the Louisville player is some scrub off the scrap heap. In fact, though we are still just in Chip Kelly’s 2nd NFL draft, Smith might be a much more appropriate selection for HIS roster than the one fans and analysts predicted for the Eagles since the end of the 2013 campaign.

From both a statistical and measurable standpoint, Smith is an impressive specimen. As mentioned in Tim Kelly’s initial article, Smith racked up 14.5 sacks last season (t-2nd most in NCAA). Smith was named AAC Defensive Player of the Year and a Third-Team All-American in 2013, rounding out a four-year collegiate career. Though perhaps a bit of a ‘tweener’ when it comes to projecting to the next level, at a certain point it is impossible to ignore production and Smith came through with flying colors in that respect.

Here are Smith’s combine measurements, courtesy of @CaplanNFL

As you can see; Smith is tall, long, and probably has some room to further develop from a physical standpoint. His 40-time was in the 4.6 range and his 35-inch vertical leap graded out quite well among his position group. One has to think that Smith’s long arms had to play a role in why the Eagles thought so highly of him. For as unfamiliar as we are with Chip Kelly and the Eagles’ new drafting philosophy, Smith very well could be exactly what the team was looking for.

On that same note, when trying to diagnose ‘weaknesses’ for Eagles draft picks, it’s tough to look at prospects under the same lens while factoring in the ‘Chip’ factor. What might be a glaring red flag to most teams could be an oversight to the Eagles and minor blips on the radar might be dropping points under the new regime. According to’s profile of Smith, these are some of his most notable weaknesses:

"WEAKNESSESLacks ideal length — plays short-armed and can be locked up by larger blockers. Short initial steps. Still crafting a wider array of counters and pass-rush moves. Still learning to convert speed to power. Work in progress as a run defender. Does not set a hard edge and can do a better job using his hands to disengage quicker. Needs to become a more violent hands fighter. Limited experience playing in reverse."

These sound like the types of weaknesses that apply to an exclusive pass-rushing linebacker in a traditional 3-4 defense. Though there will probably be some subtle differences in next season’s unit, the Eagles do not run such a scheme and thus, the ‘weaknesses’ may apply less when projecting him onto the Philadelphia defense. Smith will certainly be expected to round into the team’s primary pass-rushing threat, but will unlikely be depended upon to be the sole-providor of pressure (think Terrell Suggs in Baltimore).

Looking back on last season, think of all the times Mychal Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans were used as part of the Eagles’ blitz packages. Billy Davis does not pigeon-hole his pass-rush scheme into trying to free up one player to harass the quarterback all game. Instead, he keeps the opposition guessing by having players from every level rush the passer as well as drop into coverage. There is far less divisiveness between the three levels of the Eagles defense than some and the ability to wear multiple hats is required of every player on the field. With that in mind, here is a highlight video of Smith provided by Harris Highlights (@BlakeHHarris)

The first thing that jumps out at me about Smith is his ability to locate the ball. Whether it is rushing the passer, tracking down a ball-carrier, or even forcing a turnover; Smith seems very natural when it comes to pursuing and stood out as a ‘playmaker’ on a defense with Calvin Pryor on it. Though he played in a conference that, admittedly, is deficient on top-end talent; Smith still passed the eye-test with flying colors and impressed quite a bit with his quickness and body control. He seemed at ease playing with a hand in the dirt or standing up, both of which will be expected of him in Philadelphia. If there were one knock on him when it comes to the tape, it would have to be the lack of plays where Smith was able to use his strength to overcome an offensive lineman to make a play.

If one had to make a snap judgement, Smith is entering a favorable situation for a rookie. He will most likely refine some of his pass-rushing skills behind Trent Cole and continue to learn the nuances of his position from Connor Barwin. Though the team is desperately in need of pressure on the quarterback, it is unlikely Smith will be depended upon in a ‘starting’ capacity this season. Instead, he will more likely be used in advantageous situations that highlight his athleticism and speed and bring an added-element to an Eagles defense in desperate need of it. Despite the inevitable clamoring for instant results from an Eagles fan-base still reeling from the shock of a rather obscure pick, Smith should be able to grow in a low-pressure environment under a favorable group of veteran teammates. As a versatile, athletic player; Smith will be able to impact the game in a variety of ways as he continues to develop into the top-end pass rusher that the Eagles hope they locked down with their first round pick.

So as more of the mystery of the current Eagles regime are peeled back, we continue to learn that Chip Kelly and company don’t seem to adhere to what people project, or care frankly. Had the Packers not scooped up HaHa Clinton-Dix at #21, we could be singing an entirely different tune about how the Eagles finally did what the fans wanted them to. Had they selected Johnny Manziel instead of trading back with the Browns, the entire football world would have converged on Philadelphia for the next six months. However, the Eagles apparently stuck to their board, collected an additional pick, and selected a player that THEY see worthy of a first round grade. I’ll admit without hesitation that my frustration boiled over when I saw the selection and the players left on the board. All things considering though, to have copped a 3rd round pick to move back a few spots and take a player with a healthy balance of upside and proven production continues to soften my stance on the selection. After all, the real heavy-lifting in the draft starts in a few hours. Now with three picks in the 2nd and 3rd rounds and a handful of quality targets still on the board, it’s tough not to imagine a few more buzzworthy selections coming down from the Novacare complex. Until then, here are some reactions from Chip Kelly and Smith:

KELLY (Courtesy of @RoobCSN): 


As always, the draft never fails to entertain. Hopefully the next couple of days are just as fun.