After missing out on their top targets, the Eagles decided to trade back four spots and select Louisville OLB Marcus Smith at pick No. 26 in the first round. Once Anthony Barr was gone, I felt like a trade back was their next back option.
However, I certainly didn’t expect them to take Marcus Smith at that slot.
A gif via the700level.com perfectly captured most fans’ reaction to the pick:
If you’re reaction wasn’t that, it was probably more like this…
I was initially somewhere in between those reactions.
It wasn’t because I don’t like Smith, it was just the shock of taking him that early. I had Smith pegged as an Eagles target in the second round if they didn’t trade up for Anthony Barr.
With that said, I did have reservations about whether or not Smith would last until pick 54 because pass rushers with some talent always go earlier due to the law of supply and demand.
The best word I could use to describe how I felt after the pick was “underwhelmed.”
When the Eagles were on the clock at pick 26, I was hoping for one of two things: trade back again or take Deone Bucannon. Unlike many, I am not enamored with Marqise Lee or Bradley Roby and was hoping the Eagles weren’t either.
However, after sleeping on it, researching a little more and going looking at some “tape” of Smith, I feel better about the selection.
First, here is a scouting report from NFLDraftScout:
STRENGTHS: Broad-shouldered, long-armed athlete. Good initial quickness out of the three-point stance, showing enough burst to cross the face of offensive tackles on the perimeter. Good club move to break free from pass blockers as well as the power to effectively push opponents into the pocket on the bull rush. Alert defender who locates the ball quickly and shows good balance to pursue laterally and downfield. Shows vision and savvy as a walk-up blitzer, timing his rush with the snap nicely to penetrate his initial gap or when looping on stunts. Awareness and underrated athleticism evident when asked to cover tight ends and slot receivers on underneath routes. Gets an effective jam on his target and is athletic enough to handle coverage duties for a few yards. Physical, reliable tackler who wraps his arms securely and arrives with a thud. Good strength to rip away at the ball while making the tackle.
WEAKNESSES: May be viewed as a ‘tweener by some. Strong enough to create a pile in the running game but struggles against double-teams. Productive pass rusher but many of his sacks (and pressures) come while looping in untouched on stunts. Quicker and more powerful than most opponents at this level but does not possess much variety in his pass rush technique. Too often gets caught up in the hand-fighting at the line of scrimmage. A bit stiff in his midsection, showing only fair ability to bend and explode around the corner and may not possess preferred straight-line speed.
Then, here are some quotes from various people on him prior to the draft or prior to the Eagles picking him. *Note – I specifically only looked for quotes prior to the Eagles taking him because I wanted a true idea of what others thought of Smith before looking at it through “green goggles.”
Studying Louisville OLB Marcus Smith. Execs LOVE him. Loose edge rusher with a burst to close… Strong hands to set edge vs run. Intriguing
Jeremiah also stated back in April that Smith would be a top 35-40 pick who could also sneak into the first round.
Players who could potentially sneak in late first rd: DE/OLB Demarcus Lawrence, G/T Joel Bitonio, G Xavier Su’a-Filo, DE/OLB Marcus Smith.
Eric Galko (Optimum Scouting):
Wonder if the Marcus Smith/Louisville train picks up before draft day. Explosive edge guy, great speed-to-power. Seems like Top-50 guy.
Glad Marcus Smith is gaining some buzz. After Clowney, Crichton, might convert speed to power best among rest.
talkin’Marcus Smith Louisville OLB/DE formerQB with 54 plays behind the line of scrimmage-very smart and QB background helps..a good3-4olb
From theCrunchZone.com (prospect profilers):
Marcus Smith is custom-made for the 3-4 Defense in the NFL. Smith was #2 in the Nation in Sacks in 2013 and led the #1 Total Defense and #1 Rushing Defense in the NCAA. Marcus’ sack total was the 4th best in a single season for Louisville and Smith finished 7th in his career at getting to the Quarterback. Marcus can move around in pre-snap alignments with his hand down or as a linebacker and has a natural ability to get to the quarterback. Smith also has enough speed to run zone blitz and cover when needed. Smith’s versatility is going to be a HUGE value to an NFL franchise and he will make someone’s defense better.
You can watch a YouTube highlight clip right here.
If you’re not into highlights, check out this game tape vs. Miami via draftbreakdown.com. You can’t watch that tape and come away without thinking Smith is a playmaker!
I researched Smith prior to the draft and that’s why I felt he would be a good fit as to what the Eagles were looking for. The only problem that anyone should have is that he may not have been “worth” the 26th pick.
It was obvious that the Eagles’ biggest need was at OLB and that’s what this pick was ultimately about…a need. So much for all the preaching about going “best player available”, they seemed to have kicked that idea to the curb here.
However, they got a good player. Smith fills a sorely needed position and will have the benefit of Kelly’s sports science program as well as learning how to “be a pro” under Trent Cole’s tutelage.
Hell, if you’re stuck on thinking this was a “reach” pick, think of it this way…
Andy Reid used to trade up and give up picks for reaches (Graham/McDougle). At least Kelly traded down and added a third rounder before doing it!