With their first-round pick, the Eagles select… OLB Marcus Smith?

With their first-round pick, the Eagles select… OLB Marcus Smith?
May 8, 2014, 11:44 pm
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The Philadelphia Eagles made a shocking move on Day 1 of the NFL Draft, yet it wasn’t trading the No. 22 pick so the Cleveland Browns could take Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.

The stunning part was when the Eagles selected Louisville outside linebacker Marcus Smith, a name that received very little mention as a potential first-round pick during the lead-up to draft day. In fact, most popular prospect rankings had him projected to go in Rounds 2 or 3.

Here’s the scouting report via NFL.com:

Strengths

Nice bend, balance and body control. Good pass-rush ability and potential. Quick first step. Coordinated hands and feet. Athletic and agile -- can stunt and loop. Flashes a spin move. Shows burst to close and get home. Moves well laterally. Gives effort in pursuit and ranges all over the field. Operated from 2- and 3-point stance. Solid character. Is coachable and has improved steadily.

Weaknesses

Lacks 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.

Smith was named AAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2013, racking up 18.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks as a senior. So why was he rated so low? Perhaps in part because those totals were more than the rest of his college career combined.

On one hand, you have to give general manager Howie Roseman credit for the trade, even if it was something of a no-brainer. The Cleveland Browns sent a third-round pick—No. 83 overall—for Philadelphia to move down four whole spots to No. 26.

And in fairness, Smith does project to fill the Eagles’ biggest need, which is pass-rusher. The defense ranked 20th in sacks last season with 37, just six more than last place. Furthermore, Trent Cole turns 32 this season, and his salary cap figure balloons to in excess of $11 million in ’15. No way he’s seeing that.

There’s even a chance Smith would’ve gone much higher than his ranking due to the lack of pass-rushing talent in this year’s draft class, or before the Birds’ next pick at No. 54 anyway. That being said, it was hard to feel like this was anything less than a reach at the moment the pick went down.

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