With the 26th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles select OLB Marcus Smith from Louisville. Smith measures in at 6-3, 251 lbs. The 22-year-old Louisville senior finished with his college career with a total of 83 tackles, 32 tackles for loss, 24 sacks, 1 interception, 5 passes defensed, and 8 forced fumbles.
This pick helps boost an Eagles pass rush that was pedestrian in 2013. Smith joins an outside linebacker position that already features veteran starters Trent Cole and Connor Barwin. Smith will likely play in a rotational role to start his career.
This is very much a surprise pick for the Eagles in the sense that many people didn't expect Smith to be picked in the first round. The Eagles did show significant interest in Smith during the pre-draft period. Chip Kelly personally attended Smith's pro day and was seen speaking with him. The Eagles also brought in Smith for an official pre-draft visit. You can't say the Eagles didn't do their homework on him.
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Smith is a natural athlete with solid size at over 6-foot-3 (measured in at the Senior Bowl at 6'3 1/2) and 258-pounds. He has an NFL body with long arms (80 1/4 inch wingspan) and a 4.7 forty-time speed (according to Scout.com). On tape, he shows a good ability to wrap up on tackles and clear speed off the edge. He is the type of player that can line up pretty much anywhere in the front seven (outside of nose tackle in a 3-4) and be successful. He has experience blitzing from the inside linebacker position as well as rushing from the outside with his hand down or in a two-point stance. He literally can rush from anywhere.
Smith constantly gets pressure and if he gets his hands on a quarterback, the play will almost definitely end with a sack. Much like Ford, Smith uses his speed to run around defenders which allows him to get away with not being much of a technician. He ranges from average to above average in coverage for a player that has pretty limited experience playing in space. He has no issue with the physical part of playing coverage.
As mentioned above, Smith's speed is likely what helped him excel the most in college. He is not much of a hand technician yet and lacks obvious strength. That does not mean he can't win with either at this moment, it is just that he doesn't consistently win with those approaches. He prefers to run by guys as oppose to engage and shed. In coverage, Smith seems to lose his man at times. He is not great in coverage on tape, but he can do it.
Another issue for Smith is that while he played four seasons, his only major year came as a senior. In 2013, he had five games of multiple sacks and five without any quarterback take downs. He got his sacks in bunches which may have been due to lining up against a poor player at left tackle or a bad offensive line. For instance, he had three sacks against Rutgers and 2.5 against Connecticut. He had another two against Miami in a game that saw Hurricanes quarterback Stephen Morris hold onto the ball like it was his child (i.e. he held the ball way too long and his offensive line under-performed). Smith does have the one-hit wonder feel, but luckily has experience as well.
He would probably be more comfortable initially as a 4-3 defensive end, but his talent really fits a 3-4 outside linebacker, which means he will have to learn a new position in the NFL. That may mean that teams have to slowly ease him into the position as a rookie.
Eagles remaining needs
Eagles remaining draft picks
1 (26) - Marcus Smith, OLB, Louisville
2014 NFL Draft schedule:
Thursday, May 8 - 8:00 PM EST (Round 1 - 10 minutes per pick)
Friday, May 9 - 6:30 PM EST (Round 2 - 7 minutes, Round 3 - 5 minutes)
Saturday, May 10 - 12 PM EST (Rounds 4-7 - 5 minutes per pick)
TV schedule: NFL Network and ESPN/ESPN will televise the draft.